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Week 11 Weekly Blog 05/08/2021 - 11/08/2021

Last week saw us part ways with Sue and Brian, only to catch up with them again at Karumba. We had one very long day driving with a few troubles and then we were able to relax on the coast at Karumba Point. Read on below for what adventures we got up to in week 11 of Allan and I exploring Oz.

Day 71

Packed up camp, said goodbye to Joe and Jade and left Karumba Point Caravan Park. We stopped at the RAA/fuel shop and bought 2 Ford trailer bearing packs for our camper and asked about dust caps. We must buy 2 packs, not for spares, but because our camper uses 2 bearings the same size and the packs come with one large and one small bearing. They didn’t have any dust caps that would fit our camper, the assistant suggested to ask at Normanton Top Fuel. We drove 75km on bitumen to Normanton. We stopped and had a look at the old jail and holding cells and the large statue of the crocodile. The crocodile statue is true to size of one hunted (when crocodile hunting was legal). We went to the Top Fuel shop to fill up with diesel and ask about a dust cap. The man went out the back and found a dust cap that looked to be the correct size, so we bought it. We got on the road and stopped at a truck parking bay to pump up the tyres, as we had heard it was bitumen all the way to Burke and Wills Roadhouse, our destination for tonight. While we were pumping them up we figured out that we had been running aired down tyres for 27 days. That means we had been driving on dirt for 27 days, we were looking forward to being back on the black top! Thankfully, it was an easy, smooth drive on bitumen all the way to Burke and Wills Roadhouse (otherwise known as Four Ways). We set up in an unpowered site, then bought a burger ($18) and chips and gravy ($7) for a late lunch. We just finished lunch when Joe and Jade rocked up to fill up on diesel and move on to camp at a free camp (Mellish Park) about 180km away. We said goodbye to Joe and Jade again, then chilled out at camp, playing cards before going to bed.

Day 72

Packed up camp, got back on the black tarmac and headed towards Gregory Downs with the destination of Adel’s Grove in mind. Before we left, Allan decided to try and fit the new dust cap from Normanton to the camper trailer and it fit! After close on 3 weeks of looking around and asking for a dust cap we finally found one. The road was bitumen, so smooth and easy all the way to Gregory Downs, where we stopped for a toilet break and to stretch our legs before continuing. We drove past Gregory River free camp which looked beautiful but was extremely busy. The road was bitumen for about 10km out of Gregory Downs before becoming unsealed, but was well-maintained, with minimal corrugations and each creek/river crossing/floodway was bitumen. About 20km from Adel’s Grove, the road condition worsened with more corrugations. As we got to the driveway of Adel’s Grove, the road was bitumen again. We checked in for 3 nights unpowered for $40 per night, which we thought was a bit steep, but we had nowhere else to stay so we bit the bullet. We set up camp in “the grove”, which was a small floodplain sheltered with lots of different trees including palm trees and found the perfect spot right next to the river. We sacrificed being close to the amenities and sun (needed for solar to charge our batteries) to wake up with a view of the river. The water was a clear turquoise colour with a gross murky film on the surface of the water, but it was just because the water was super still and stagnant. We went for a walk to check out the amenities, bar/bistro and the laundry (which was free!!) and then along the river. Allan was keen for a swim, but I wasn’t as there was a sign that said, “use caution, swim at own risk” and had bullet holes through it. There was a pontoon for swimming and a rope swing tied to a tree, which made us think that swimming was a common activity. On the way back to camp from our walk, we noticed kayaks on a trailer, which we were told cost money to hire (from reception staff when checking in earlier), but there was no one manning them, and they weren’t padlocked. We decided to go for a kayak down the river. We only went for half an hour, but it was very peaceful, the water was clear so we could see fish and turtles and the water lilies had purple flowers. Apparently, people had seen freshwater crocodiles, but we weren’t lucky enough to see any. We got back to camp and had very quick, freezing cold showers, then went to the bar/bistro for a drink before going back to camp to cook and eat tea. We played cards before going to bed. Allan was upset because we didn’t have any wood for a fire and there were lots of other people with fires, so he got a bit jealous.

Day 73

We decided to go to Boodjamulla National Park (NP) about 10km away from Adel’s Grove and have a look around. The road to the NP gates was all bitumen, but as soon as you got through the gates it became unsealed and quite corrugated. Got to the campground of the NP, which was full. We heard that people had to book 3 months in advance to book a site there, which was probably because it was quite a small campground and only cost $6.60 per night. We went to the information board at the NP and found out that there are 3 gorges (lower, middle and upper). The lower gorge you could only get to via walks by crossing a suspension bridge, which was closed, potentially due to floods during wet season. This meant there were 3 walks that were inaccessible (Island Stack, Botanical Walk and Wild-dog Dreaming). We later found out from another traveller that a make-shift bridge using fallen trees had been created further downstream to allow access to these walks, but we found out too late and didn’t have enough time to do the walks. Today, we decided to do the Upper Gorge Hike which was listed as 3.7km one way and was expected to take about 3-4hours return. It was already 9:30am so we packed a lot of water, sunscreen and some snacks. The upper gorge walk started with the track along Lawn Hill Creek in the shade and came to a fork where we could do a detour up a steep rock path to Duwadarri Lookout (overlooking Duwadarri Waterhole) or continue following a spinifex-lined path on flat ground. We decided to go to the lookout. The hike up the rock face was well-worn and had a rock path that had been cemented. There were some loose rocks which could end badly if you misplaced a foot. The view at the top was spectacular with 360degree views. There was the Duwadarri waterhole on one side with the campground in a valley and a mountain range on the other side. We kept walking and followed the river along the rocky range before dropping into the valley and followed a spinifex-lined path. We then took another detour to Indarri Falls Lookout which gave a good view of the waterfalls, which weren’t large, but still beautiful and the water was a brilliant turquoise colour. We kept walking down the range to creek level and got to see the falls closer where we saw people in canoes. They told us they had hired them from Adel’s Grove for $50 for 2hours. We decided we would do that tomorrow, as it sounded like a good time. At Indarri Falls there was a swimming platform and canoe landing to enter and exit the canoe to walk with the canoe, carrying/dragging it up past the rapids to be able to continue paddling to upper gorge. Neither Allan or I had our bathers, so we didn’t want to go swimming and be wet for the rest of the walk, in fear of horrendous chaffing. We had the option of continuing walking along the creek in the shade of the beautiful trees and cliff face or walking inland through the shrubs in midday heat. We decided to walk along the creek, which we were glad we did, because it gave us shade and beautiful scenery. After about 1km of walking in the shade, we got to a steep, windy, rocky path in direct sunlight to get to the top of the range. The last 500m we walked along the top of the range before getting to the end where there were 4 people chatting and resting on a bench. There was a beautiful view of the upper gorge and people canoeing. Both Allan and I thought the view at Duwadarri Lookout was more beautiful but it was still amazing. We then walked back to the car the same way we had come. Overall, it took us about 3 hours to complete the walk and Allan recorded the walk on Strava which said we had walked just over 9km! We got back to camp at Adel’s Grove, had lunch, then we heard people in the river, so Allan was adamant that he wanted to go swimming. We went to the dedicated swimming spot along the river and went ‘swimming’. Swimming being jumping into the water, swimming to the floating pontoon, standing on the pontoon for 10minutes to warm up and then jumping back into the water to swim back to the stairs to get out the water. The water was freezing so it took me a while before I was happy to get into the water and it took me a long time to get back into the water from the pontoon. We got back to the camper, did our washing and went to reception to book a double canoe for tomorrow. While our washing was doing its thing, we ‘borrowed’ a kayak from Adel’s Gorge and went for a quick paddle down the river trying to spot a croc. We didn’t spot a croc, but it was still a good time. We got back to camp, got changed, then went to the bar while waiting for our washing to finish. Once the washing was finished, we hung it up on a makeshift clothesline back at camp, had leftovers for tea and played cards before going to bed.

Day 74

We woke up early, both of us very keen for our canoe along Lawn Hill Creek. Allan had a morning shower while I made coffee and cooked breakfast. On his return, he reported it was a mistake, because the water was only just warmer than air temperature and he didn’t want to get out, because he knew he would be freezing when getting changed. We drove to Boodjamulla NP and went to the river where they keep the canoes. There was someone manning them and making sure we had paid to hire them. We had hired a double canoe so it would be easier to get good gopro footage and photos, but we knew that meant there would more than likely be more arguments. We put on life jackets, got paddles, got into the canoe (me at the front and Allan at the back) and were pushed off the entrance ramp by the staff member. Sure enough, after only a couple of minutes we were arguing because all I wanted to do was paddle and look around, but because I was at the front, Allan wanted me to take the photos and videos otherwise he would have my big head in the photos if he took them. We eventually got over this and enjoyed the serenity of paddling along the creek and the beautiful scenery of the different types of trees, rock/cliff formations and wildlife (fish and birds, but no crocs yet). We paddled along the creek to middle gorge, then got to Indarri Falls where we had to get out of the canoe and carry/drag it above the falls to the next section of creek. We successfully got the canoe out and up the canoe slide and carried it just under 100m to the re-entry point. The canoe was very heavy, so we pretty much dragged it the whole way. We managed to get back in without capsizing and keep paddling without any arguments. We got to a section of the river where it forked, and we had to go left through a narrow channel to get further up the creek than we could see from the upper gorge hike yesterday. It was awesome going through the channel, because we had to duck under palm fronds and navigate around a rock sitting in the middle of it. We were taken into another waterhole and followed a narrow opening which took us to some small rapids, so we couldn’t paddle any further. We took some photos and turned around. We went back through the narrow channel and got to Indarri Falls quickly, as we soon worked out, we were paddling downstream. We got out of the canoe and dragged/carried the canoe to the canoe entry/exit point. A family was just trying to get out of a triple canoe. We decided we were going to go swimming under the falls, but first we had to get our canoe out the way, so Allan found a spot to put the canoe, while I got back into it and paddled it to where Allan told me to go. Allan dragged the canoe up the bank with me in it and I got out. We must have arrived at peak hour, because there were 2 canoes that were coming to the falls to keep going upstream and 2 canoes that were coming upstream to go back down. One of the double canoes capsized while trying to get back in, so Allan helped them out. There were too many people trying to help them, so I went swimming instead and tried to keep out of their way. The water was surprisingly warm, so I swam up to the falls and tried to sit underneath them, but there was a big current even though the falls themselves were not huge, there was still a lot of water falling from them. Allan finally joined me after helping everyone get in and out of their canoes. We got back into our canoe from the swimming platform, because there was a traffic jam at the canoe entry/exit. I got into the back of the canoe and Allan sat in the front, so I got to paddle most of the way back. Despite paddling downstream, it was still challenging, and I was exhausted by the time we got back to the canoe return spot. Allan kept joking that it would be interesting to track our paddle by GPS, because apparently, I was zig-zagging the river, as I would paddle too far on one side, then overcorrect going the other way. We got back to the canoe return and gave all the equipment back, got changed, then walked to see where the bridge had been to get to the other walks. We went back to the car and drove back to camp. We had lunch at the bistro (beef burger and chicken burger $15 each). The beef burger was delicious, but the chicken burger was just a standard burger. We went for a swim even though the water was cold, then decided to do another load of washing. I went and had a shower and was surprised when it was hot, so I made the most of the shower. We chilled out at camp before going to the bar/bistro for a drink to wait for our washing. Went back to camp, hung out our washing, had tea and played cards before going to bed.

Day 75

Woke up at 4am this morning (was planned to do so last night) and it was quite cold. We drove to Boodjamulla NP again, this time to do Constance Range hike and view sunrise at the top of the range. We got to the campground at 5am which was still dark. We had head torches and a torch and headed along the path. The walk started along the river, then after about 500m it started to incline up a rocky path. At times we didn’t know which way to go, but there were the occasional arrows to direct you, so once we saw an arrow, we knew we were on the right path. It took about 40minutes to get to a fork in the road which did a loop at the top of the range before going back down the same way we came. It was still dark, but we could just see the faintest of light cast on the horizon to our left, so we decided to go left at the fork. Shortly, we came to a bench where we put our stuff down and set up our gopro and a camera on a tripod. We got to the top by 5:45am and first light wasn’t meant to be until 6:46am and sunrise not until 7:10am. We sat and waited, enjoying the stars and listening to the wildlife. It was beautiful and quite serene watching the sunrise with all the colours and how bright the sun is. After the sunrise, we kept walking around the range and then back down the way we came up. The walk seemed a bit sketchier in daylight, as we could see the sheer cliff edges, we had walked straight past earlier without knowing. We got back to the car at 8:30am, drove back to Adel’s Grove and packed up camp. We left Adel’s Grove, which we both loved! It was a slice of paradise amid the dry, dusty paddocks. It had lots of activities to do, so if you can get over the $40 per night it is well worth the visit. We decided to take the unsealed Savannah Way Alternate Route to get us to Hell’s Gate Roadhouse. We had our Google Maps up on our car’s navigation system, but it soon had a fit, because we weren’t going the right way even though we were following wooden handmade painted signs saying, “Savannah Way” and pointing us in the direction to go. We went through a deep water-crossing and continued. The road was well-maintained with no corrugations as I think it had been recently graded. I had to get out to get a couple of gates. The scenery was ever-changing between cow-grazing paddocks, flood plains, rocky outcrops and rivers/creeks. We hit roadworks where they were grading the road and making it wider. We finally hit bitumen just before Doomadgee and then it was bitumen all the way to Hell’s Gate Roadhouse. We arrived at 2pm and booked 2 nights on power for $40 per night (we later found out unpowered was only $12 per night!) and set up camp around the back. The campground was grass which was beautiful compared to the dirt we have been used to. As Hell’s Gate Roadhouse is also a working station, there were young calves in a pen, a baby pig and working dogs in their kennels. We went back to the roadhouse for lunch (Hell’s Gate burgers $18 each and a side of chips for $3) and a couple of drinks. While eating lunch we noticed a monitor lizard looking for food in the garden bed about 3 meters away. We went back to camp, chilled out for the afternoon before going back to the roadhouse for another couple of drinks. We didn’t have tea tonight because of our late, large lunch, so we played cards, then went to bed.

Day 76

Today was an odd jobs sort of day. I did a workout while Allan chilled out and had his morning coffee. Allan then had to get dirty and change the bearing out of the camper trailer again, because it had dust in it after the temporary dust cap fell off on the way to Karumba Point 9 days ago. We had to pack away the kitchen and camper and put the awning on the car out (for some shade), so Allan could jack the camper up to take the tyre off to access the wheel bearing. I left Allan to his devices, helping only when he needed help/asked for it. I kept myself busy by writing the blog, doing the dishes, organising what to have for lunch and tea and completing our NT border declarations. It took Allan 2.5hours to replace the wheel bearing with minimal swearing and a few bruises from hitting his hand with the hammer. Allan chilled out while I cooked tuna mornay for lunch and made dough for wraps. The flies were horrendously sticky and there were hundreds of them. We put the camper back up and ate lunch. We chilled out at camp before going to the roadhouse for a drink and completing our census form. After finally finishing the census form, we went back to camp, Allan cooked tea while I typed up the blog. We played cards before going to bed.

Day 77

I did another workout this morning, while Allan chilled out having his morning coffee and did the socials. We packed up camp, filled up with diesel and bought a piece of Italian lemon and chocolate cheesecake. We ate the cheesecake before getting in the car and it was super delicious, there were pieces of lemon rind (I think) and chocolate chunks, and it was super creamy. We got on the road and hit dirt which was quite well maintained soon after leaving the roadhouse. We stopped after 15km to check the bearing, it was loose, so Allan (was a bit angry as it was already 32degrees and still dusty) jacked the camper up, took the tyre off, tightened the castle nut (I think that’s what it’s called) and then put the tyre back on and kept driving. We stopped in another 10km and jacked the camper to check the bearing and there was no movement of the wheel, so Allan was happy, and we kept driving. We got to the QLD/NT border and there was no security or anyone to check our border declarations, so we stopped and took photos (Allan had to put a sticker on the sign) then kept driving. We still had about 275km (of the original 320km) to Borroloola (our destination for the night). The roads soon turned horrendously corrugated and there was no going around them, as the whole road from the left to the right side was corrugated. About 10-15km from the border, there were 2 very large bulldust holes where we had to drive on the far left, way off the main driveline, as the middle of the road was a large bulldust hole. The line we took was still a very deep bulldust hole, but the middle looked like people had got bogged in it. We managed to get through in 2WD with the trailer. The corrugations continued to be relentlesss to the point where we could only drive at 45-60km/hr and there were many bulldust holes, though not as big as the 2 right near the border. After about 2hours of driving, we saw motorbikes in the distance and then a helicopter flew overhead, so we knew they were mustering cattle. We drove past them and about 10km down the road, we stopped for a toilet break. Allan did the rounds of the trailer when he noticed that we were now missing the dust cap on the driver’s side of the camper trailer. I cannot repeat the profanities that came out of his mouth, so I will leave that to your imaginations. As we were getting out the jack (again), a car came past and stopped to ask if we were OK. I told them we have lost a dust cap and we were just about to make a temporary one, but we will be all right. They kept driving and got about 50m down the road before they stopped, reversed the car and said that he thinks he has a spare one that would fit. He emptied out 2 drawers in his trailer, before saying, “I’m sorry mate, it seems like I was lying to you”. We thanked him for stopping anyway and wished them well. They left and Allan started the process of taking the tyre off, I got the duct tape and spare oil can lid and Allan went about making the makeshift dust cap, which he has had more than enough practice at now. We got back on the road within 15minutes. The road was no better, and we started driving towards smoke, the smoke was getting closer and closer, and we realised they were doing a burn-off right next to the road, where the trees and shrubs were still on fire or smouldering away. We had to cross 4 river crossings that were quite deep, which frustrated Allan, because he had to go slow through them so the makeshift dust cap would not come off. The relentless corrugations and bulldust holes weren’t helping Allan’s frustrations and just made him angrier and more short-tempered. We finally came to a section that had been recently graded, which gave us temporary relief from corrugations. Unfortunately, the graded road only lasted for 10km, and we still had 50km until we got to Borroloola. We hit bitumen about 10km out of Borroloola, which was a large relief. We crossed McArthur River bridge and turned into the township of Borroloola, which had a pub, BP, Motel, restaurant and caravan park. We pulled into the caravan park at 3:45pm and booked a powered site for 1 night ($35). We found our site, unhitched and went straight to Malandari Shopping Centre. We had to get there before they stopped selling alcohol at 5:30pm. We lined up and had to show our IDs to the police who also asked if we had crossed any borders recently, we said we had crossed the QLD/NT border today. They asked if we had been in any hotspots recently and if we had completed a border declaration form within 7 days of crossing. We said we had not been to any hotspots, and we went to show proof of our declarations, but they stopped us and said they trusted us. We got to the register, and you could only get one 6-pack of mid-strength Great Northern or 4X Gold cans (12-packs are only sold on Friday and Saturday) per person for $25. Both Allan and I bought a bought a 6-pack of Great Northern cans each. The shop assistant breath-tested us to ensure we weren’t intoxicated before they would get our alcohol from the cool room, and we had to provide our ID again. The 6-packs were portioned and put in brown paper bags. We left the shopping center, went back to the caravan park and set up the camper. We met a couple (Brian and Susan) who had also driven on the same road we had today, and they were also horrified at how badly corrugated it was and agreed that it was in worse condition than the PDR in Cape York in QLD. We went swimming in the pool, had tuna mornay for tea, played cards then went to bed, as we were very tired after our horrendous drive today.

This week we stayed in paradise at beautiful Adel’s Gorge enjoying swimming in and canoeing on Lawn Hill Creek and hiking in Boodjamulla NP. Allan had to change the passenger side bearings again in the camper trailer at Hell’s Gate Roadhouse, before we crossed the QLD/NT border and drove on the most corrugated road of our trip so far. What started as a beautiful and relaxing week, turned into some less than happy times, but that’s all part of the adventure. Stay tuned for where we go next week in the NT.

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