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We arrived in Karumba on the 2nd of August. We checked out the main town, bought some fuel and then headed out to Karumba Point where we checked into a caravan park for 1 night. After setting up camp and a quick lunch we went to check out the area and see if we could catch a fish. Typically we had no success and ended up at the Sunset Tavern for a few drinks and dinner. Chris and I had last been in Karumba in 2010 and nothing had improved. Dinner and the sunset were good but we were certainly not enticed to stay a second night.
The following day we packed up and headed for Normanton a short distance of about 75 km where we found a rather quaint caravan park which was veryt much to our liking as we did not have to set up in a regimented fashion as you do in many caravan parks. On the drive to Normanton it was amazing how many Brolgas (and the occasional Sarus Crane) tha were in the savannah either side of the road.
When we arrived in Normanton it was not long before we found out that they were celebrating their 150 year anniversary. Consequently there were many things organised. These included a ball, a rodeo and a special run of the Gulflander historic train to name a few. It was astonishing that such a small community could organise so many functions but it all seemed to go off without a hitch. Normanton has a small population of around 1,300 people,
We did not have suitable attire for the ball so gave it a wide birth. We did however attend the rodeo.
In total we stayed 3 nights in Normanton and found it to be a very welcoming and pleasant town to spend some time in.
We broke camp on Monday the 6th of August and headed towards Burketown via the Leichhardt River crossing. On the way we popped into Burke and Wills camp 119. We stopped for lunch at the Leichhardt river crossing. Unfortunately the Leichhardt River was not flowing so the falls that we had experienced in 2010 were not happening on this occasion. We tried a spot of fishing with no result. It seems we were doomed not to catch a Barramundi.
Around mid afternoon we stopped for fuel at Burketown, then set off towards Hells Gate. We were hoping to find a bush camp on the way as Hells Gate is some 206 km from Burketown and we were not sure of the condition of the road and we are not keen to be on the road after about 4 pm.
As it turned out, the road was not too bad and finding a camp spot was difficult considering we were mostly travelling through Aboriginal land. We made good time and arrived at Hell’s Gate around 5 pm. This is an excellent place to stop with a bush restaurant and good facilities considering where we were. We booked in for dinner and then set up camp.
The following morning we headed west towards Borroloola hoping that the quality of the gravel road would be maintained. Well it was, until we got to the NT Border.
From then on the road was terrible. We had been warned by a fellow traveller that we met over dinner but you cannot always trust people to measure the quality of an outback road the same as we do. However on this occasion he was spot on. It was almost as bad as the Cape York road.
About 65 km from Borroloola we came across a carer who was taking a disabled fellow on an outback tour. Their Caravan had broken a spring hanger and they could proceed no further. Luckily our Sat phone came to the rescue and before long they had organised an AANT (RACV) truck to pick up their caravan and take it to Borroloola for repairs.
We spent 1 night in Borroloola then headed for Lorella Springs the following day arriving for a late lunch. While relatively expensive, Lorella Springs is worth it. It is 1 mill acres of treasures. You are permitted to camp anywhere on the property that you choose and there are some fantastic spots.
Their has been a considerable amount of infrastructure improvements since our last visit in 2016. We decided to camp in the main camp ground for 1 night then head out into the bush for 3 or 4 nights. We headed to a spot called “Alaska” and found no other campers so we set up camp and used it for a base for further exploring.
On the morning of the 12th August we packed up and headed back to the homestead (74 Kms along a bush track (except for a length of abandoned mining haul road) to settle our account, get a little fuel for safety ($3 per litre), then head for Butterfly Falls . However when we arrived at the homestead we found that Harold had a flat rear tyre. Out with the compressor and the emergency tyre plugs and in half an hour we were on the way. It would be disappointing to think that we would not get back to Lorella Springs again someday.
On the way to our proposed camp at Butterfly Falls we dropped into Southern Lost City. I have now walked Southern Lost City on 4 occasions and would do it again in a heart beat. It is stunning.
After camping at Butterfly Falls that disappointingly was down to a trickle this late in the dry season, we headed for Mataranka, hoping to find a bush camp on the way. Since the camp ground and shop at Roper Bar were now closed and we did not want to trek into our secret camp spot on the Hodgson River we needed to find some alternative. Luckily we were able to go off to the side of a “borrow pit” and find a great bush camp.
The next day it was a fairly short run (110 km) into Mataranka mainly on bitumen. Well except for yours truly getting a flat tyre. Once again we had it fixed while still on the car within about 30 minutes. Arriving at the Bitter Springs caravan park early we had our choice of fabulous sites that were set amongst thick rain forest. A fabulous swim in Bitter Springs (warm natural spring) during the afternoon saw us ready to head to Katherine the following morning.
After restocking with supplies and lunch at a very pleasant cafe with great coffee we checked onto the Riverview Caravan Park. While Harold and Di headed off to the warm springs for a dip I took Chris to a medical centre to attend to a small injury that she had acquired in the morning while breaking camp.
The following day we headed for Batchelor to visit a childhood friend who owns the fabulous Rum Jungle Bungalows. Batchelor is on the doorstep of Litchfield National Park. Sue had invited us to her place for dinner. Sue is a cook without equal. She delighted us with a fabulous Moroccan meal. We supplied the wine and a wonderful night was the result. Especially considering that our caravan park backed onto Sue’s property so all we had to do was hop over her back fence and we were home.
After 3 great days in Batchelor visiting Litchfield saw us head to Darwin on the following Sunday.
As I write this we are spending a few days in Darwin catching up with friends and then we will head down the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs.
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