NOW – LAWN HILL NATIONAL PARK TO KARUMBA
We needed to wash our clothes and shop for fresh food so Borroloola was a timely stop. We also needed to swap one of our near new tyres with our extra spare on the roof rack. The Savannah Way had ripped the sidewall of the tyre in 4 places and it kept loosing pressure. We actually kept the ripped tyre just in case as we couldn’t buy a replacement and it would hold pressure for a day if we had to use it.
At Echo Gorge the water had been contaminated by a mine which appeared to no longer operate. Four hours from Borroloola we crossed into Queensland and the rough Savannah Way was sealed but only for a short distance. In the 1800s the Buchanan stockmen travelled west through Hells Gate and Echo Gorge to establish the first cattle stations in the Northern Territory. The police would escort travellers to Hells Gate and then you were on your own until you reached the telegraph station in Katherine. No one knows how many people made it to Katherine or perished along the way.
We reached Hells Gate Roadhouse for a late afternoon tea and settled in for the night. We were hoping the last 1000 kilometres had been the hell and the Savannah Way would improve as we headed east. The campground stories weren’t encouraging. Caravanners heading west thought they’d travelled on a dreadful road. They were in for a dreadful shock. We thought the road improved dramatically east of Hells Gate!
From Hells Gate we reached Burketown much earlier than anticipated on the much improved road. Continuing on we saw a million nomads camped together like sardines at Gregory on the dusty river bank. With Lawn Hill National Park booked out according to the online booking system we headed to Adels Grove. It was dry and dusty but with spaced out sites and shade.
We cruised Lawn Hill Gorge on an ecofriendly solar powered boat watching the fish and birds watching us.
The water in the gorge is 30 metres deep and the cliffs rise 30 metres above the water. At Jinari Falls the tufor (hardened limestone which leaches from the water) has created little waterfalls which separate the gorge pools. The water has such a heavy lime content that a white scum can often be seen on the surface.
We also hired a canoe and paddled the first two gorges. This was a really peaceful and pleasant way to spend a morning in Lawn Hill.
The Riversleigh Fossil fields are near Lawn Hill and fossils abound in the rocks of this ancient seabed. We could clearly see fossilized turtle shells, bird and crocodile skeletons in the mudstone laid below the inland sea thousands of years ago. Palaeontologists are still looking for and unveiling new creatures fossilised at Riversleigh. The savannah is a place of contradictions. It can be hot, dry, brown, dusty and deserted, or it can be lush and green with fast flowing water and wildlife everywhere.
From Lawn Hill we took the Wills and Burke Development Roads to Normanton on the Norman River. The Gulflander train travels from Normanton to Croydon each Wednesday on the same track it’s been using for over 100 years. They even drop the mail off along the way. The metal sleepers sit straight on the sandy ground and stay in place even when flood waters cover the salt flats the trains traverses.
Many of the buildings in Normanton were transported from Croydon when the gold rush ended there. Even half of the famous Purple Pub came from Croydon. Also in the main street of Normanton you’ll find a replica of Krys the Savannah King, the largest crocodile ever captured in the gulf.
Eighty kilometres from Normanton is Karumba – the outback by the sea. The small fishing village at Karumba Point was busy with small boats and large prawns. We enjoyed fresh gulf prawns with frozen local mango several times as well as the world famous wild caught barramundi.
NEXT: UNDARA LAVA TUBES
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David