June - July 2011 Lawn Hill to the Top End

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July 6th 2011
Published: July 18th 2011
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Mt Isa to Hells Gate

Frogmouthed OwlFrogmouthed OwlFrogmouthed Owl

Owl found in the workshed at station
As it’s been so long since our last blog, we’ll split this into two parts.
Part 1 – Mt Isa to the NT border
BTW - I've put 15 photos on here, so if they don't show, keep scrolling down. They can be enlarged by clicking on them.
If you'd like to read Murray and Chris' blog go to:

Our five days off to travel to Gregory Downs and Boodjamulla Lawn Hill NP proved to be a great experience. We travelled north from the Barkly Highway up towards Gregory Downs, pulling off the road down a track to the Gregory River. This river is spring fed so is turquoise, lovely and clear (unlike most Aussie rivers), and the fish swim with you, just out of reach. A visit from a large bull coming down to the river’s edge for a drink kept us quiet and watchful as he sniffed us on the air then sauntered away after 15 minutes. We had the back of the truck lined up as a quick escape as some of these lone bulls can get quite stroppy and territorial. A campfire dinner of Martin’s steak was enjoyed. . Murray had his first attempt at
Ribs for dinnerRibs for dinnerRibs for dinner

Traditional ribs dinner after doing a killer
fishing and caught a couple of squigglers.

A beer was called for at Gregory Downs Hotel on our way to Lawn Hill. Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla) National Park is a lovely oasis in the arid north-west corner of Queensland. We stayed there for three nights, canoed for 6km on the lower and upper gorge, a new experience for Dave, paddled past a snoozing freshwater croc, and swam in the lovely, clear, warm water. This involved a 6km return trip with a beautiful small water fall half way where we had to drag the canoes up the bank and back into the water above the falls. The gorge was serene and beautiful. We also did a couple of short walks, one up to the top of the gorge with great views down into it, and another to look at ancient aboriginal rock drawings.

Murray and Dave then dropped Chris and I off at Mt Isa to fly back to Kerikeri for a quick 2 week family catchup. They headed down to the station near Boulia to continue working. Dave mustered, and draughted with the other workers, worked on vehicles and helped Murray set up a solar powered pump to pump

A dip in the beautiful Gregory River, Queensland
to tanks and a turkey's nest 5 miles away.
(A turkey's nest is sort of like a dam on top of the ground where the water is pumped to. The water is then gravity fed into the troughs.)

In mid-June Murray picked Chris and me up again in Mt Isa and took us south to the station. The caretaker here Al and Cath were very hospitable, and we looked after the place for a couple of days while they were away.

Here we filled in the week helping with the laundry and cooking as there were up to 13 people to feed. This station is quite isolated, and we kept in touch with the outside world through our laptops and got a lot of reading and crosswords done.

Meat was required for the freezers. Martin did not bring down his rifle, so used the .303 that was at the station. He lined up the animal he wished to kill, and the bullet passed straight through the head of the first animal into the head of one standing behind. So we suddenly had twice as much beef to process on a hot afternoon. All the beef was quartered
Flood proofFlood proofFlood proof

The log up in the tree shows how high the river rises in the wet season. No wonder they close the roads.
and taken to the chiller and hung until we processed it a few days later We cut up and bagged it all, and Martin very generously gave us meat for the little truck freezer.

There was a rat infestation in the area and 10 yr old Blake was shooting heaps every night he was there. We had to be extra careful keeping all doors closed. Just image the havoc if a few had got inside!. At night we could hear them arguing and squarking outside the mesh windows. The rats, along with mice, in this area, are in plague proportions, and while travelling on the road at night one will run across the road every 20m. We had a low here overnight of 0.4 degrees but day temps of low to mid 20s.

So, we worked for our friends for 8 weeks and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but it was time to move on. First stop on the way to Julia Creek, was for a beer at the Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinley, the pub that was used for the Crocodile Dundee films. Apart from that it was uninspiring. We stayed at Julia Creek, a town on the main
Lawn Hill NPLawn Hill NPLawn Hill NP

Captain and his First Mate
drag between Townsville and Mt Isa, with it's main industries being cattle farming and mining.

Upon leaving the next morning, our gearbox threw a hissy fit, stripping the spline into the transfer case (for those with mechanical know-how). In other words, it didn't go...not at all! The camping ground managers kindly allowed us to park up for a couple of nights while the bush mechanics,D and M, took the gearbox out using their amazing kiwi ingenuity and the camps loader to lift it up into the back of Squire's Cruiser. They took off at 5.30am for Mt Isa, it was stripped and rebuilt that day, and they arrived back at 8pm. Great service in a town where service is a little wanting! ....normally if you expect it tomorrow, it will arrive in a week!
After refitting in the morning, we packed up and headed north up the dirt road through the stations, camping on the side of the road near Numill Downs Station, and being awakened the next day by inquisitive emus circling the trucks and trailers. We are able to make and cook on open fires in these areas although it is dry and hot, as there are

Fresh Water Croc sunbathing in Lawn Hill Gorge
a lot of cleared areas and we are careful kiwis! Many of the camping grounds also have individual fireplaces and it is lovely to see little campfires all around the place.

It is great driving on the back roads. Although it’s very dusty, often with creek crossings and corrugations, there is hardly any traffic. On our way to Normanton we saw on one particular day, about 4 vehicles, 4 large bores (pigs), 6 pelicans, 6 emu, kangaroos, cattle, 1 dead dingo and 2 dead horses, and of course, Chris and Murray.

We are well and truly in croc country here with warning signs at nearly all rivers and of course, the coast. A lovely evening at Karumba Point will be remembered for cooking up a feed of garlic prawns with fresh, white bread whilst watching the sunset over the Gulf of Carpenteria. Also to be remembered is a close snake encounter, with C and M hopping out of the back of our truck and walking down onto the beach. I hopped out the passenger side and saw a beautiful snake just in front of the front left tyre. Glad I looked down! It quietly slithered into the long grass. That's not our only close encounter - see Part 2.

This part of the trip has seen us drive part of the “Savannah Way” – a tourist term for the road going across Australia from Cairns to Broome. There’s really only one other option and that is the main state highway from Mt Isa, Tennant Creek then north to Darwin, but that is all bitumen and anyone can do that. The SW is a tourist route and we would have driven over 30 creek crossings. The only signage was “high clearance 4WD recommended”. What we like about outback Aussie is that you have to engage your brain and make your own decisions – not quite the nanny state that NZ is. Corners have an arrow, with no recommended speed – oh, yes, we can use our own brains!
We have been through roadworks that were up to 8km long, where they are building, grading and rolling the centre of the road and you drive down a graded track beside the road and……..there is not a road cone to be seen, or lolly pop men!!! Wow – we love it!! We are allowed to think for ourselves!!

Lifting the gearboxLifting the gearboxLifting the gearbox

Kiwi ingenuity to get the repaired gearbox out of the truck
there are plenty of quiet places to bush camp not far off the road including the beautiful Leichhardt Falls where you can camp on the flat rock areas on the side of the river, and light a camp fire. People are expected to be careful and responsible!... and they are!

Burketown is a small outback town. We headed north from there to drive out to Nicholson River across the saltpan flats where there were continuous mirages and you could swear you were surrounded by water. Go off the track and you can get very lost – once again, be sensible!! Dave's beard is very bushy. He made a new friend at the pub who called him St Nick (ie Santa) and said he’d see him at Christmas – ha ha.

After a couple of nights at Kingfisher Camp (had to stay there for nostalgia’s sake), where they heat the water with a donkey. (Google that if you are confused).

Before crossing the border into Northern Territory, we stopped at the Hell’s Gate store. Dave was hovering around the icecream freezer. The shopkeeper said “If you want an icecream, you are a week too early” – that sums
Flat outFlat outFlat out

Waiting for the Bush mechanics to return
it up!

Part 2 coming up soon – I promise!

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Emus waiting for brekkyEmus waiting for brekky
Emus waiting for brekky

Murray opening is tent door to find an emu looking at him 3m away. Who got the biggest fright?
Need I say more?Need I say more?
Need I say more?

The Animal Bar at Karumba
Prawns at SunsetPrawns at Sunset
Prawns at Sunset

Karumba Point

19th July 2011

Living the dream
Hi Kathryn and Dave, Al and I are following your adventures with great interest. I think you must be the envy of many people - having the courage to get out there and live the dream. We are looking forward to reading about your next experiences. Happy travelling. Love, Clare.
20th July 2011

Living the Dream
Hi Clare and Al, thanks, yes we are having a ball. Your travel stories have been great to read too. All the best to your family. Cheers. Dave and Kath

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