Sunday five weeks ago I started driving the Savannah way which is part of the Highway number 1 along the northern part of Queensland and the NT. At the time being it was the end of the dry season, but it was signposted that the road is prone to flooding…for hundreds of kilometres during wet season. After about one hour I reached camp 119 of the Burke and Wills, which was actually the first white expedition to cross the Australian continent from South to North. They started in Melbourne with a lot of supplies and men, and that camp with only 4 men, out of which 3 should be dying on the way back due to bad leadership, including the two leaders of the expedition. Later on I arrived at the waterfalls from the Leichhardt river. There was no water flowing at the end of the dry season but at least two campers stayed next to the river. As there was a heavy cold front approaching, I only had a short chat with one of them and then quickly escaped the heavy rainfall. In Burketown I visited the jetty at the Albert river, a popular spot for recreational finishing. In Burketown I enjoyed a free shower next to the Rodeo. At the Caravan park I asked for gas, but they said only the fuel station can refill my gas bottle tomorrow. The owner of the caravan park and the police men, which just had a Sunday afternoon chat the owner, advised me both to stay overnight at the wharf…and I shouldn’t care about the “No Camping” signs from the shire. Nobody will control it anyway. All right, here we go.
Saturday five weeks ago I continued my drive north to the coast of the gulf of carpentaria. In the morning I followed the gravel road along the Leichhardt river, until I need to go onto the Burke development road, which was sealed again, at least always with one lane. After the Burke & Wills roadhouse, it started raining. That was my first rain in Australia and the first rain after I was hiking in the Batukaru volcano at Bali, more than four months ago. Normanton is a small town and at Saturday afternoon is almost dead, except the pub and the bottle shops are open. Also the visitor centre is closed the whole weekend. I also closes at 13 o’clock during the week. Hence, I’m really wondering how to get a permit for the free camping at the river 🤔, as this is technically required? In the end I just camped at the right side of the Norman river, and nobody complained or checked at all. In the afternoon I took a walk through Normanton up to the railway station and back along the main road. There are still a lot houses from the end of the 19th century. The railway station is a small treasure. Especially, when you take into account that the train only leaves once a week. A bunch of children were playing around the station, and even new how to get into the train. As far as I’ve seen, they just played and didn’t look to smash anything, which was good. There was a short shower, when I was at the railway station and the kids told me, it was the first rain for them in this year (I guess they meant in this season, so at least no rain in the last months).
Six weeks ago I had a late lunch with Jeremy before I left Mount Isa. The day before I met with Meng in order to have dinner together. She’s the rural dentist and drives to the communities around North-Western Queensland for this government service. As nobody else wants to do that, she’s pretty good working conditions and can travel a lot. She speaks really good Russian and is addicted to that language. Meng is always going for a longer solo trip each year, and has already visited more countries than I did. Her plans, yes she loves to make plans, are already set for the next three years. So we had a very long conversation of our various travel experiences. Mount Isa is good for a stopover, but the whole town is about mining. Hence, almost all people are working either directly or indirectly for the mines. After I left Isa I went first to a nearby lookout just a few kilometres out of town. Then I took the Kajabbi road, a shortcut to the north, along the Leichhardt river. In fact it’s a gravel road but in very good conditions and just recently graded. This is due to that fact, I guess, that the mine has another operation on that road. So there was more traffic then I expected. I just stayed a few kilometres before Kajabbi next to the road. When I was preparing my dinner another car stopped and asked, if everything was ok. It seemed that this couple came from their neighbours and was already a bit drunken. I was a bit worried, if they would push me on, as it was on a pastoral lease, where I stayed, but in the end they didn’t take care about that.
Wednesday morning six weeks ago I passed the big white phosphate hill mine and went to Mount Bruce for bouldering. I got a bit of trouble to access the crag as it turned out that the access road from the Chatsworth Phosphat Road is nowadays just an overgrown 3km track. Even as I have a 4WD I decided not to take this time consuming drive. Instead I drove to the mining town “The Monument” and took the first gravel road to the right. This is the same road as before, just from the other side, but it’s graded for the first km or so until a gate. From a technical point of view it’s not allowed to drive there, but in the end I just parked my car nearby and walked the last few metres cross country to the boulders. Nobody complained about that, even as some drivers with mining cars have seen me. As there’re only mining cars, I must have been obvious, that I’m not really part of the game here.
Luckily, as I was a bit late at the boulders due to the approach, they were still in the shade for the whole morning. I approached a nice “Golden Arete” V3 boulder, but without spotting or a crash pad, I didn’t want to give it a serious try, as it was a bit overhanging and you just had some slopers. Just to warm up I did the other three easier routes at the “Golden Area”. At “Fossil wall” I did the Sunset boulder, which was rated just as V1, but drove my adrenaline level higher, as it felt harder, than the V2 I did before. As I couldn’t find the other routes, I did two new first ascents in the “Gully” area. But the rocks are really bad there, and we’re heavily affected by loose rocks. Even one step broke off, while I was using it. That was definitely not a nice feeling. As it started to get warmer I stopped bouldering afterwards at late morning.
I stopped in Dajarra for a lunch break and was surprised that there was a railway just until 1993. And by accident I had my lunch at the former railway station. I arrived in the late afternoon in Mount Isa. The driving was easygoing as it was a sealed road, but only with one sealed lane in the middle. So, when there is oncoming traffic all cars dodge to the left, and drive with the left wheels on the bank. That’s not the case for road trains. They don’t care about that, they don’t care about anything. In the end you’ve to make an emergency stop on the bank and make space for them. In the evening I met my host Jeremy and we prepared a steak with mashed potatoes together. Definitely better than all the canned food together.
Tuesday six weeks ago I stopped in Bedourie for a late morning coffee and then headed further north to Boulia. In the visitor centre I got some information about the so called Min Min light, which is typically seen around the town. In the end it’s not a miracle, but related to density gradients in the air, caused by temperature gradients, which in essence led to travel the light along these “tubes” of could air. Well maybe some optical expert can give a more pronounced explanation. Earlier this year in there was a lot of rainfall, which caused severely flooding of the river. The last great rainfall was back in 2011, as they told me in the visitor centre. So the local people are very happy about the water. The last section of today was straight north through different cattle stations of pastoral land. The area was covered with much more grass and trees along the creeks and is called Mitchell grass land, contrary to the morning, where there were only stones around the countryside. During the driving in the late afternoon I saw not only various cattle herds, but also a lot of kangaroos, which completely disappeared the week before during the drive through the desert. These kangaroos were pretty big and definitely fast, some of them jumped along the car with a speed of 50-60 km/h. It was a lovely drive, as the road was pretty good and not really corrrugated. There were no other cars on that gravel road. I just camped two kilometres before the Phosphate mine, which was basically again in the middle of nowhere. But due to that, I had even mobile reception there.