Thursday five weeks ago I headed along the Roper highway to the west and made a short stop at the Roper valley east rest area after about 30km. I didn’t know that there’s was such a nice and free rest area in the vicinity, so I could have just stayed there overnight. Anyway, from this rest area on the highway is sealed until the Stuart highway. Hence, I increased my tyre pressure here in order to have less friction and less wear of the new tyres. About 30 km before I reached Mataranka I gave an indigenous was hitchhiking and I gave that couple a lift. Well they had to squeeze onto the front, which is legally allowed, but still a bit narrow. But for this short time ok. We had a short chat during the drive. I didn’t get it completely if they were looking to meet other people in Mataranka, or if they need to pick up their car there. In any case they had already or still some alcohol intus. Typically they communities are dry places, and hence, people coming to the twons to get drunken. I’ve not idea if this is each day the case for Mataranka, or if it was “Halloween” at this day. That’s not the typical Aboriginal holiday, but hey, it’s a reason to drink alcohol, if you need one. The bloke also told me about the Thermal Pool, which is a few km south of Mataranka and also a nice place to swim. But I wanted to head to Bitter springs first. Unfortunately, this was closed due to recent Bush fires. And while I was waiting infront of the gate even some rangers came by. But they told me, that it won’t open the next ten days or so. Hence, after my lunch break, where I observed all the Aboriginal people coming with a carton of beer from the bottle shop, and then hiding in the bushes…well, that lasts not long until the police showed up. As this area is, surprise, surprise, an alcohol free area. So the people just got away, probably hiding or sitting together further in the bush. The rainbow springs was open, and the warm bluish water was constantly flowing. It’s not Artesian water, as was explained, but instead the water is catched during the rainy season in the surrounding mountains, and then transported and heated at a depth of 30-100 m in several cracks to the springs, which eventually allowed for a constant water flow of the Roper river the whole year around. While I was splashing around the pool, well it’s just too small to swim, I met a French traveller. We had a long conversation and she told me, that she stayed in a nearby farm to pick water melons…with 60 other backpackers. She only need 10 days until she got her 3 months of remote work. But that’s pretty hard at the moment. As the temperatures can reach easily 40 degrees, combined with a humidity of over 80%, makes you sweat the whole day. And that’s sometimes just from being outside. In the late afternoon I headed off along the Stuart Highway to the north and stayed at the King River rest area. It was the first time nice a few weeks that I camped at a place with other cars. And what I didn’t took into account was, that some blokes run their generator during the whole night for electricity, probably for their TV. Well, as this was rather annoying I parked my car 100 m away at the other side of the parking area, to net get bothered by this bloke, as I didn’t know when he decides to stop that.
Wednesday five weeks ago I followed the Nathan river road to the north out of the Limmen national park. The road had different qualities, most of the time it was ok, but suddenly there were also heavily corrugated patches, where a grading would have been very nice. This road was mainly leading through savanna area with the corresponding trees. Once I reached the Roper River Road which is leading to Port roper the road quality suddenly improved, as this road was just recently graded. So the drive out to the roper highway was no longer a bis deal. On the way to do that I first stopped at the Lomareium lagoon. Which is a great spot for birdlife. And while I was walking along the dirty banks of the lagoon, I guess there might be also crocodiles in the water. I only saw some small traces, so I guess these were just freshwater crocs. For an extended lunch break I stopped directly at the roper river, opposite to the Ngukurr community. This spot was full of rubbish and hence, attracts a lot of ants. When I was there, the roper river just had high tide, and I carefully watched out for some salties, but I couldn’t see any. While I was calmly staying at the bank, I hear some branches cracking and also some dry leaves. It sounds as somebody would walk along the undergrowth, so I looked behind me…twice, but couldn’t see anything. Until I saw a green head which belonged to a two metre brownish snake 😯 ooh….Fuck. So I didn’t move at all, I just observed her for a few seconds. Then it detected me, and suddenly disappeared underneath the next bush. So that’s in essence the reason, why you might not want to walk through the undergrowth with flip flops and short trousers. I walked back to the car and looked into the direction in which the snake went to, but actually couldn’t see her again, and didn’t want to chase for her. In the late afternoon I finally arrived at the Roper highway and checked out the campground at Roper bar, that’s the location where Ludwig Leichhardt crossed the Roper river as first white person in 1845. But as the campground was empty and I didn’t want to pay for nothing, I decided to drive a few kilometres further on, and just stopped at an area about 50m next to road. There were maybe 5 cars during the evening, so traffic wasn’t too bad at this spot.
Tuesday five weeks ago there were only three creek crossings with flowing water until Borroloola, and this was the only real fording on the whole northern highway. The water was not (yet?) deep during this time of the year, which made the fording not really challenging. In Borroloola I got some fuel and even met a young German bloke at the cash register at one of the general stores. He’s working there a few weeks. In order to extend the working-holiday visa one need to work at least three months in remote communities. Borroloola seemed to be again a pretty rough community, and not as nice as Doomadgee the day before. What was surprising me, was the public transport in Borroloola. Bodhi bus offers twice a week a public bus service to Katherine with connection to Darwin. After my lunch break I took the road, which was sealed again, to the Bing Bong loading facility, directly at the Gulf of Carpentaria. In order to get there I drove through a small Bush fire. Nevertheless, the big smoke of the fire was sawn several kilometres before the actual burning. Even as I was driving around the Gulf of Carpentaria, this was actually the first time ever I had direct access to the sea. Due to all the saltwater crocodiles around, you might not want to actually enter the water, and if you’re not into fishing, then probably there’s not much to do around here. The Bing Bong loading facility consists of two independent loadings for two mines. The iron ore part seemed to be closed since some time, whereas that part from the Marc Rich gang was still in operation. It’s owners are the same as the ones in Oskemen. The actual iron ore mine is about 150 km away from the shore and connected by a private road. But as the mine is currently not operating the road is hardly used. So I decided to make a shortcut along that road. Luckily the road is still in a good shape. At least all bridges are still working. Otherwise, it could have ended in a bit of a nightmare. Nevertheless it was a bit creepy to drive on that sealed mine road, as it looked definitely abandoned. The banks of the road are already prone to deep washouts, it’s impressive how powerful a “little bit” of water can be and a lot of vegetation is already making its way back to the sealed surface. Eventually the roots will cause major damage to the road and destroy it, if not properly maintained. And in case of emergency, you don’t know when the next car will pass here and make the same decision to drive on that private road (even as there was evidence at the entry, that other cars already did it before). Shortly before the turnoff I crossed the Limmen Bight river and had a beautiful view to the four arches, a mountain formation, which is also connected to some dreamtime stories of the Aboriginal people. Once at the Nathan river road the 12 km drive to the Cox river in the Limmen national park was heavily corrugated. I was definitely spoiled from the sealed road, and no longer used to the severely shaking of my whole car.
Six weeks ago I went in the morning to the (only) fuel station in Burketown in order to get my gas bottle refilled. This is typically an act of maximum 5 minutes, as the gas bottle takes maximum 2kg of LPG. I was asked to come back 45 min, as the bloke who does the job was busy. Well…in the end I waited three hours and needed to come back three times to the fuel station. I should have done that a few days earlier back in Mount Isa, but I forgot about that, and as I didn’t know how much was left as there’s no pressure gauge at the exit, I wanted to be sure I’m not running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. In the end I waited at the visitor centre, which was supposed to open at 10 o’clock, but didn’t seem to open the whole day. Two young community workers picked up the mangos from the trees infront of the visitor centre and even offered me some fresh ones, which I happily accepted. After Burketown the road was in good condition, and the gravel sections in between hadn’t deep corrugations. So I was even able to cross the border back into the NT in the late afternoon. I stayed at a large gravel pit next to the Calvert river for the night.
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.