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Heading to the Gulf of Carpenteria

Upon leaving the Palmer River, we had originally planned to continue north up the Peninsula through Lakeland and Laura to meet up with the Burke Development Road, which we had planned to follow across to the Gulf of Carpenteria and Karumba.

However, we had a quick revision of plans and backtracked to Atherton to head to the Gulf via the blacktop.

The problem...the 4x4...the Prado, which had only been serviced in Atherton 10 days earlier.

It was running like a slug and would have had difficulty in pulling a stick out of mud...let alone pulling nearly two tonnes of armour plated offroad caravan over a couple of thousand kilometres of dirt.

When the vehicle was returned to the Toyota dealer in Atherton, the culprit was eventually found...a defective electronic airflow metering device ...housed on the air cleaner.

It got dust into it! One would have thought that such parts designed for 4x4s would have been the subject of more robust testing!

Looking on the brighter side however, it was covered by warranty. Luckily, though, as it would have been difficult to justify the $280 price tag... for the small plastic electronic device that was...and that probably cost $5 to make.

After the loss of a day and a half in Atherton, we headed to Normanton, planning to camp a night or two at Karumba watching the sunsets over the Gulf.

Approaching Normanton, I turned the radio on...to the ABC...since it was also the only station we could pickup...to be greeted by the news that two charity bicycle rides, involving over 300 participants, were also set to converge on Karumba the same day.

GREAAATTTTTTTTTT.

Residents and visitors were invited to join them in a party on the headland at Karumba that evening.

...No thanks...not for these little black ducks...we were trying to avoid crowds...not get swept up with them.Normanton Railway Station

After a quick refuel and look over the local landmark, the Normanton Railway Station, which looks a bit like a pregnant Nissan Hut, and just in time to see the rather quaint Gulflander train arrive...we decided to hit the dirt....

...over a thousand kilometres of it...and half of which was marked on the map as suitable for four wheel drive only...and unsuitable for caravans.

We had almost encountered more caravans and motor homes along the bitumen than VB cans and decided to head to Kakadu and the Northern Territory via Burketown, Borroloola, Roper Bar and Mataranka...knowing that most caravan toting nomads weren't that stupid.

Normanton to Leichhardt Falls

Leaving Normanton, we left the bitumen and headed west towards Burketown, 222km away, diverting to inspect the site of Camp 119 of the ill fated 1860-61 Burke and Wills expedition.

Located about 36km west of Normanton, a cairn marks the spot of the most northerly camp set up by the expedition party - Burke, Wills, Gray and King on 9 February 1861 during their attempt to traverse Australia from south (Melbourne) to north (the Gulf of Carpenteria). On the 10th February, Burke and Wills set out from this camp in an attempt to reach the Gulf...less than 60km north, as the crow flies.

Burke, Wills, Gray and King

On the 12th February they returned to the camp ,having aborted their attempt to reach the Gulf. Presumably the wet season made the land impossible for them to traverse and the very next day the party set out on the return journey to Melbourne via Depot 75 at Coopers Creek, where all but King perished...tragically, not from thirst...but from starvation.

King was the only member of the expedition to survive - saved only by the assistance of a local aboriginal tribe.

Having visited Coopers Creek in the past and armed with a reasonably good understanding of the tragedy behind this ill-fated exploration I felt a sense of sorrow for these adventurous men, who were robbed of their final goal by the elements and perished as a result of their lack of understanding of the Australian outback; particularly their knowledge of 'bush tucker'.

Leichhardt Falls

Arriving mid afternoon at Leichhard Falls, about 70 km south of Burketown, we decided it was a particularly pretty place to camp for the night and positioned the van on the cliffs adjacent to the Falls, with sweeping views across and along the river.

Soon other adventurous nomads were arriving...trying to ferret out camping spots with similar commanding views.

The branches of the trees lining the Leichhardt River near the road crossing were loaded to capacity with white cockatoos...literally thousands of them...allwhite cockatoos screeching in unison. The sound was deafening; particularly at dawn when they all departed to feed... and then at dusk when they returned...jabbering away like a group of kids at a birthday party, overdosed on raspberry cordial.

white cockatoos

Leichhardt Falls

 

Although the falls were not running, there was a rugged grandeur to the scenery and we thoroughly enjoyed the spot as a campsite.

 

 

Leichhardt Falls

 

It was hot, over 30 degrees, and the water looked so inviting....but I suspect not quite as inviting as we would have been to its inhabitants, the estuarine crocodiles, if we had attempted to dangle a limb or two..

 

 

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