Top End and the Gulf

Animal - Pearl Jam

An early morning start at Hell's Gate saw us away by 8.09am.
After overshooting the turn off to Doomadgee we perused the streets looking for a general store. Croc's wing dings purchased from the roadside service station proved to be the only sustenance available. As with Borroloola this town seems to have improved markedly since our last visit but still has some way to go before being a contender for a tidy town.
A brief stop at Burketown to refuel and we were underway again.
Continuing on we crossed several rivers before halting at Leichardt Falls for lunch of corn beef and red pepper relish pita pockets.
We participated in a history lesson along the road at the Burke and Wills Camp 119. It was from here that they struck out to the gulf and failed. There are a number of blaze trees marking their journey.
The remainder of the drive to Normanton was over reasonably good roads with some large dips to keep the drivers on their toes.
Once we hit sealed roads we aired up and said goodbye to the dust. Windows down until we head to the Cape now.
95 year old Jack was a highlight at the Purple Pub, traveling the country by train and coach from Newcastle, NSW and was still enjoying a cold beer. After some souvenir purchases we made the final run into Karumba.
Karumba is nomad Mecca. We are in one of three caravan parks and this park has 200 sites and we have one of the final spaces.
After setting up camp we visited one of Croc and Scottie's old haunts, the Animal Bar. Despite the ambitious renaming to the Suave Bar the decor and clientele reflect its original name. Based on this we moved on to enjoy the sunset elsewhere.
We watched the sunset at the aptly named Sunset Tavern. We were last here in 2005 and it is still a wonderful place to visit.
Tomorrow is our penultimate day as we strike out towards Cairns.

Highway to Hell - ACDC

After settling the tab and farewelling Lorella Springs it was a quick 30km jaunt to the main drag. The next 56km however seemed to take forever.
The long run into Borroloola resulted in Dazza's aerial preferring to stay in the NT. Borroloola seems to have improved greatly since our last visit. It was all happening at the local mini mart with ice, fuel, dim sims, bread and stubby holders being purchased. The smiley friendly Michelle was in town purchasing tires and Amy the local seemed very popular with everyone.
We stopped for lunch at Wheyland River and chatted to some crazy people riding push bikes from Cairns to Broome via the dirt.
Late afternoon we crossed into Queensland. This borer was slightly less complicated than the Namibia/Zambia crossing but the roads deteriorated just as rapidly. We were welcomed to Queensland and the Shire of Burke and notified that we were entering the "home of the morning glory". Can't wait until tomorrow morning, should be glorious!
We pressed on to Hells Gate Roadhouse much to our disappointment. Dazza was upset that there was no pay phone to speak to Susan, Crock was upset with being told he couldn't use the good BBQ's and we were upset that the roadhouse and friendliness of the staff has deteriorated significantly since our last visit in 2005. At least this time I didn't lock the keys in the car and we will be able to leave at first light in the morning. On a more positive note the Moroccan Lamb and Royal Cane Liquor bought the campers back to familiar territory.
There is a reason this place is called Hell's Gate not Heaven's gate.

Mermaids - Paul Weller

With mud map in hand and directions from Rhett we left the homestead and opened the "gate to adventure". Viagra was at point with Crock as chief navigator.
After negotiating a somewhat plugger unfriendly track we arrived at Wildfire Gorge. Those from the Southern half of the country had a swim in the slightly chilly pool. A further 200 metres up track we had another dip in the crystal clear Emerald Pool.
The Olympic diving trials were then held at Ink Pool with Crock mastering the water up the nose feet first entry. It was here that Walt and Jo joined us and we switched to the now famous channel 27.
A slightly wrong turn and a few kmilometres later we arrived at the Waterslide. The track in was definate plugger blowing territory and those of us with Tevas made the switch. Crock negotiated the track in his pluggers and sadly suffered a blow out. A bread tag later and the pluggers are as good as new (well nearly). The Waterslide provided us with great entertainment, although some new bathers may need to be purchased.
After some twitching at Flying Fox Swamp we traversed the track into Nudie Springs. Along the way we were entertained by the mermaid joke. Despite the radio crowd being a tough audience for a sit down comedian, Crock was rewarded with feedback from numerous other cars who had been listening on channel 27 during the day. They wanted to know when his next performance would be.
Nudie Springs come out of the ground at 50 degrees and cool to a pleasant 34 degrees at the swimming area. This was a popular spot for an afternoon swim with lots of people choosing to enjoy the warm, relaxing pool. Despite the name on this occasion most people chose to wear their bathing costumes and there were no white whales to be seen. They must be extinct in the golf country.
Dazza was on cooking duties and skippy stead and snags were on the menu. An early night for most of us as a big day tomorrow out to Borroloola and beyond.

Bullet with Butterfly Wings - Smashing Pumpkins

A breakfast of eggs and bacon fueled us for the days activities and excitement.
Our first stop was at Limmen Creek and the corrugations in the area provided a great surface for rattle identification. With Dazza hanging out the window we were able to finally locate the culprit in the high lift jack. A few cable ties later and the rattle is finally gone.
Our next stop was for a morning swim at Butterfly Gorge. The walls surrounding the gorge are covered in butterflys, the common crow butterfly. You could describe the water as a bit fresh, but it did the job of washing away some of the dust from our dirty bodies.
A bit further along the road we came to the Southern Lost City. This is a series of eroded rock formations that has left hundreds of 20 metre high towers that look like a cross between the Bungle Bungles and Easter Island statues . The fun police were also here, notifying us that we were not walking in the correct direction of the signs! As it turned out there were 2 other couples that made this momentus mistake and they were duly reprimanded as well.
The final run into Lorella Springs has us entertained with signs of all that the station had to offer; icy cold beer, grassy campsites, nice meals, 4wd tracks, hot springs, fishing...
Lorella Springs is a place that I have wanted to visit for over 12 months and I was not disappointed. Rhett, Michelle and all the staff made us feel very welcome and we only wish our stay was longer.
The evening was spent at the bar and around the fire, chatting to fellow campers and sharing travel stories.
Tomorrow we have the day to explore the station.

All Fired Up - Pat Benatar

We of the Never Never had a very pleasant dip in the hot springs at Mataranka this morning. Much to the envy of others, Croc had a visit from Mrs Dilmah and was able to enjoy his tea whilst bathing.
A visit to the Mataranka general store resulted in double pluggers and stubby holders all round. Leaving town a quick left turn saw us heading onto new roads and out to Roper Bar. The road was much better than expected although busier than we thought it would be. As we hit the gravel we aired down the tires and stiffened up the Viagra's suspension by one notch.
We stopped to cool the feet and for a bite to eat at Roper Bar (that is the barrage not the pub). Pity we didn't have the luxury super yacht to take for a spin up the river.
Venturing further south we followed good roads alongs the banks of the Roper River. We were agast at the number of nomads scattered at various campsites. We stopped at Lomarieum Lagoon in search of a campsite for the night. We met some nice CUBS from Geraldton who were camping there for four days. Sadly for them they were not having much luck with the fishing or shooting. I think they were doing their bit for the cane toad busters with a 22 though.
We ended up pulling up stamps at the Townes River camp. Our campsite is a little bit of gold and we are enjoying an Ord River Rum next to the campfire listening to Pat Benatar.