Since we heard about the election we have been trying to work out how we could vote. Voting in remote areas is not nearly as simple as making it to a polling place on election day. Some outback towns have early polling centres where a person from any state may vote up to several weeks before the elections, thus catering for travellers, but in the remote areas we have been travelling in these do not exist. Instead in the lead up to election day voter teams visit a community for a day or half a day to enable people to vote. Unfortunately we have not been at a community when such a team was in town. So we have decided to make for Mt Isa to vote.
Sunday 15th August left Kingfisher Camp headed for Borroloola. About 40 kilometres north of KFC we picked up the road and headed west. This road now deteriorated somewhat, lots of corrugations and washaways in fact it proved to be the worst road so far this trip. After around 50 kilometres we came to Hells Gate Roadhouse. The name Hells Gate came from the 1800’s when this was as far as police protection reached for drovers and other travellers heading west into the Northern Territory. Now the roadhouse provides fuel (expensive) a few essential supplies like baked beans and bully beef and a camping area out the back. Across the road is a gravel airstrip for the weekly mail plane and RFDS when required. A sign on the roadhouse fence rather grandly (and tongue in cheek) states “Domestic and Overseas Arrivals”. It was then a further 60 kilometres to the Northern Territory border. After the border the road improved considerably.
We we’re continually crossing rivers and creeks, some dry some carrying water. All had steep descents and ascents to the river bed. Constant care was required as to come upon these crossings at speed would have been disastrous. 70 kilometres or so after the border we came to the Calvert River. We had been warned that this was about a metre deep and as we couldn’t wade the crossing first because of the risk of crocodiles we waited for someone else to come through first. It proved to be not that deep at all maybe to the top of the wheels with one deeper hole.
Another 30 kilometres brought us to the Robinson River, another crossing with a fair bit of water in it. We camped that night about thirty metres above the river on the western side bank. with no night traffic on the road we had a good nights sleep. Next morning we drove the remaining hundred kilometres or so to Borroloola. Not a great deal at Borroloola, three service stations, a couple of general stores and that was about it. There was a small museum that we had a look at and that was interesting. Apparently in 1970 David Attenborough came to Borroloola and made a film titled “The hermits of Borroloola”. I will do some research on the Internet and see if it is available on DVD. When David Attenborough came to Borroloola it would have been a real challenge to get to the town not like now when there is a sealed road connecting it to the south. Because of the sealed road, even if it is only single lane, there are caravans in town with people in white socks and ironed clothes!
This part of the country is fascinating and we have only seen a small fraction of what there is to see however as we want to be home by mid October we are having to leave a lot of the dirt roads and tracks unexplored until we return.
From Borroloola we headed north to the coast to Bing Bong. With a name like that we just had to see it. It turned out that it was a loading facility for ore concentrate so there wasn’t much to see anyway. Back to Borroloola and then south on the Carpentaria Hway to overnight behind the Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford. Don’t know why it is called a “cape’’ in fact couldn’t find out anything about the place as it is manned by foreign backpackers.
Tuesday 17th headed south on the Tablelands Hway. Still a single lane sealed road but starting to see more caravans and motor homes. At Brunette Downs we turned off the Hway onto Ranken Road, a dirt road that used to be part of the stock route connecting Queensland to the Kimberley’s. Because it was an old stock route the bores were all close to the road so there was plenty of cattle to see. At Alexandria Station we saw four road trains loading cattle. These take very little time to load and can hold up to a thousand head each. The first of three trailers are positioned alongside the loading shutes then gangways are erected between all three trailers, both on the upper and lower decks. Loading then takes place via upper and lower deck shutes simultaneously. When full the gangways connecting the trailers are pulled up forming the ends of the trailers and the road train is ready to depart.
The country was for the most part flat and tree less, the horizon stretched for as far as the eye could see with heat haze shimmering in the distance. Huge expanses of Mitchell Grass plains. At the southern end of this stock route we started to come through low red sand hills.
It was then onto the Barkly Hwy to meet the almost constant stream of caravans and motor homes as this is the main northern route for them between the eastern states and the west. We camped that night at Avon Downs rest area just inside the NT border with about thirty other caravans and motor homes and their beloved generators. There was a constant stream of road trains all night.
Tomorrow we will head east to Mt Isa.