SATURDAY 9 APRIL ADELS GROVE TO HELLS GATE RH 219 kms
We left Adels about 10am. The day was quite hot and got more so as we progressed north and west.
I was a little sad to be saying goodbye to this beautiful place, yet again. At least we had seen it in a different guise this time – lucky us.
Took the route north, through Lawn Hill Station – which the Australian Agricultural Company took over, last year. There were no issues crossing Lawn Hill Creek, just north of the homestead – although the creek there was in a couple of branches, it was shallow, and the bottom was firm.
There was the usual mob of cattle at what we had taken to calling Cow Corner – where some paddocks converged and where there was water. And also a gate that I had to open – very carefully watching where I put my feet.
We had been apprehensive about the Elizabeth Creek ford – a bit of a dip down into it, and always water there, even late in the Dry. It had more water than we’d seen before, in it, but we got through OK.
The track took us from Lawn Hill Station, onto Bowthorn country. We had been sad to hear, back at Adels, that both the sisters from that station had health problems and were now living on the east coast. They were unable to live back in the Gulf Country because it was too remote from necessary medical services. So Bowthorn had just been sold, gossip had it for about $5million. Apparently, the tourism side of the operation had garnered some interest, but at this stage, no-one was sure about the future of that. Kingfisher Camp was so lovely, and such a tribute to the work of the sisters, that it would be a real shame if it did not keep going.
Turned right at the T intersection beyond Elizabeth Creek. The station tracks had been in fairly good condition. We reached the Gulf Track – rather ridiculously designated National Route 1 – and turned west. The Nicholson River ford at Doomadgee, which back in Melbourne we’d feared might hold us up, was actually dry! Clearly it had been a rather poor wet season in those parts.
The unsealed road was not too bad. There were the expected little gutters where storm water had flowed – not all of which John saw in time to slow right down! There tends to be regular traffic between Doomadgee and Hells Gate, (which sold beer) so that had smoothed the way, somewhat.
We reached Hells Gate Roadhouse about 2pm. Booked ourselves into the campground there – $16 for an unpowered site. Power would have added another $16 to that, so we declined! We did refuel Truck though – $1.47cpl. Ouch!
The van contents were a bit jumbled up, due to a couple of big bumps on the tracks!
We were just setting up the van for overnight when O arrived. Earlier than he’d expected. He decided to stay the night, rather than press on and end up driving in the dark on poor tracks. He was towing a large, flat bottomed boat, bought in Brisbane and destined for bird watching expeditions on the shallow wetlands, he thought. He had three new canoes – one on the Troopy roof and two packed in the boat.
I cooked tea for the three of us – pasta with tuna, tomato, capers. A favourite of ours – O liked it.
About 6pm, we saw the backpacker bus go by. They had just started routing its Cairns-Darwin service via the Gulf Track again, after the Wet. I knew it had been due in at Adels in time for tea tonight – so the catering would be shot to blazes! Whoops! Heard later that he had been bogged in the Robinson River crossing and that was why he was so behind time.
It was a very humid night and a bit difficult to sleep. O wanted an early start in the morning, so we retired early. He estimated it would take us five or six hours to get to Pungalina .Two of his friends were staying at the house to keep an eye on things in his absence, and we gained a rather vague impression that they – or someone – would have the safari camp set up by now. Before each Wet Season, virtually the entire contents of the camp were dismantled and packed away in a cyclone proof shipping container – on wheels so it could then be towed to high ground. Otherwise floods and cyclones would destroy infrastructure like tents. But this meant that the camp had to be reassembled each year.