So far this trip we have travelled 12,000 kilometres with an average fuel consumption of 13.3 litres per 100 kilometres. This is not too bad considering we are towing the van. The highest price we paid for fuel is $1.96 a litre at Bamaga.
Thursday 12th August arrived Burketown. It is said that Neville Shute based the fictional Willstown on Burketown in his book “A Town Like Alice”. However I am sure that he would never recognise Burketown now. Whilst small with only one fuel depot, convenience store and hotel it is a pretty town with the town centre being a green park.
At the information centre which is manned by a volunteer who also sells his woodwork from it we met Frank. As he is a wood turner talk naturally turned to wood turning and the properties of local timbers. He very kindly gave me a piece of purple heart gidgee so I have to remember to send him a piece of Tasmanian timber when we get home.
Frank showed us some photos of the area during the wet which showed why travel is just not possible during this season. One quite impressive photo taken just after the wet showed a twenty foot sandbank over part of the Leichardt River crossing with a dozer making a cutting through it so that traffic could get through. He also told us that contrary to what we had been told at the Normanton Information Centre the Calvert River crossing on the road to Borroloola near the NT/QLD border was passable, with care. We didn’t stay in Burketown which was probably a mistake because there were several good barramundi fishing spots, instead we headed west. There is however a warning posted in town about using the Burketown boat ramp, a 4.5 metre crocodile has decided to call it home.
Unfortunately what is known as the morning glory was not happening whilst we where in Burketown. This is a cylindrical rolling cloud formation, very spectacular and only happens here and in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a precursor to the wet and apparently it was not hot enough yet to cause the formation.
This is still flat floodplain country with many water crossings on the road. Just before Doomadgee is Booths Crossing, no water over the crossing but this is a very long series of crossings. Luckily we met a road train carrying cattle before we entered the crossing as most of the crossing is single lane (as most crossings are). We also heard on the UHF that a second road train was on its way so we remained pulled over until he past. A UHF radio is really essential safety equipment in this part of the world.
It was then into the Doomadgee Roadhouse to top up the fuel. This roadhouse was more like a fort, there where even grilles and roller doors around the pumps and you paid for your fuel before you got it. The whole area around the town was littered with beer cans. This was the first such town we had been in this trip. We didn’t linger.
30 kilometres west of Doomadgee we turned south onto Bowthorn Station making for Kingfisher Camp (or KFC). Bowthorn Station was, until a few years ago owned by Kerry McGinnis the author of “Pieces of Blue” and “Heart Country”. These fascinating books are the story of how her father took her and her three siblings on the road droving and how she grew up in that environment. If you haven’t read them do yourself a favour and get them from your local library, they are terrific reading. Kingfisher Camp is a campground within Bowthorn Station on a five kilometre waterhole of the Nicholson River. You can even swim in the river here as only freshwater crocs are present. They are mustering on Bowthorn and as they will yard 7,000 head of cattle that is quite a task. The main yards are near Kingfisher Camp and there are lots of horse floats, motor bike trailers and two mustering helicopters close by.
We have a bit of a dilemma as to where we should head from here. We could go south through Lawn Hill National Park and then Mt Isa or we could go back to the Doomadgee Rd turn west and head for Borroloola via Hells Gate. From Borroloola we could then circle around and go via Cape Crawford and Barkly Homestead to Mt Isa.
The main entrance to Lawn Hill is from the south and most people enter and leave Lawn Hill via this route. There are two campgrounds in the park, one is Adeles Grove a private caravan park, this is expensive. There is a small camping area within the actual park but you have to pre book well in advance for this. We believe both are pretty busy. There are two water crossings between us and the park and a 4WD truck got stuck in one of them yesterday, however we shouldn’t have any trouble getting through. If we head for Borroloola we see much more of the gulf on “roads less travelled”. Once again there are several river crossings with the deepest being the Calvert River at about one metre.
We’ve decided, we will head for Borroloola.