Rough Roads, Termite Mounds & Death Adders – Starcke National Park
DATE- Too bumpy to care!
A rough 4WD track mostly crossing private property and two days solid driving to cover a mere 180 kilometres awaited us….so to procrastinate we decided to check out a rodeo that was at the Aboriginal community of Hopevale before heading off into the bush. The rodeo proved to be lots of fun with Barrel racing, bull roping and rough riding. It was all enhanced by a dry, dusty, comfortable 35 degrees in the shade.
Cowboys, cows, cotton candy, courage, casualties, and crowds. It was a true rough rodeo, Australian style. Lots of fun.
After the rodeo, we headed down the partially sealed road out of Hopevale eagerly scrutinising our trek notes……….
Our trek notes and descriptions of the area were our bibles. There are so many unmarked tracks once you get up on the Cape that maps and/or a GPS unit (Global Positioning Unit) are a must.
(Eric)…Neither of these will do you any good without a liberal dose of commonsense accompanying them. You see no matter how good your trek notes are they will always be wrong…these tracks through outback areas tend to be rather organic and change all the time!
After 20 kilometres or so the road gradually started to deteriorate. Although the notes we were using seemed to indicate that the road didn’t deteriorate for a further 5 kilometres we begged to differ. A deteriorating 4WD track is quite a rough old thing to encounter.
I’d just like to add a little note here to all those who have never been 4WDriving (me….up until now!) It essentially entails being thrown all over your car (with your clothes, luggage and camping supplies) as the car slides, shimmies and crawls down unimaginable gradients, hills, terrain and crosses creeks. Most roads are corrugated and have massive washouts on them (washouts are big holes and steep gradients caused by the road eroding away after heavy rainfall). It is however truly amazing, and lots of fun. There are so many stretches of road where you are absolutely certain that there is NO physical way that your car can get through, some of the angles are so precarious you are certain that capsizing into the nearest ditch is only seconds away………yet somehow the car delivers the goods
All that said and done….it was sparklingly exciting. You only have to get away from total civilisations and unashamed tourism for a little while to realise how wonderful it is to be away. Once you start exploring these kinds of places you start seeing the most extraordinary animals and places, meeting bizarre and interesting people who’s lives and values are the total antithesis of city folk.
Within the first afternoons drive we had seen our first death adder from the safety of the car(very dangerous Australian snake), passed old out stations, seen herds of bulls and wild bush brumbies, crossed over 50 creeks, seen every kind of flying insect possible, and winched a man and his boat out from a creek. This poor fellow had lost his boat off the back of his truck while trying to cross a creek. We hooked up our electric winch and helped winch his boat out and back onto his vehicle. In return, he gave us three large mud crabs (a very large and very tasty type of crab) and smiled a lot. The electric winch proved itself useful. However, I think Eric was right when he said that winches are fantastic yet also a little annoying because for every time you winch yourself out from a sticky situation you use it to help three others!!!!! (Eric) Still, if the rewards are Mud crabs who’s complaining!
One of the more interesting things you see along the road is an abundance of small anthill mounds. Some of these mounds are over 8 feet tall. There are many different types of mounds but the most architecturally superior mound award goes to the magnetic ants. These ants have figured out that by building their mounds vertically in a North-South orientation, they reduce the chance of overheating from the Sun, hence their homes are very thin yet extremely high……….ant highrise!
Unfortunately, some of the trek notes did become rather ambiguous and after much deliberation at one particular junction, we took a wrong turn. Leading us on a little detour of an extra hours driving…..but we finally made it to our designated camping spot along the Starcke River. It was fast approaching dark as we wearily arrived and set up our first REAL bush camp. Using water from the stream and a hole in the sand for our toilet it was lots of fun (maybe it will pass…….we’ll see) After a quick feast of one of our mud crabs, we crawled into the tent and fell into a deep and luxurious slumber to the sound of birds and the wind in the trees.
(Eric) In the middle of the night, I woke up to the sounds of the Crabs clambering around in the bucket….after much toing and froing there was a very clandestine thump in what sounded like the grass nearby the bucket…I remember in my half-awake daze thinking that it was either a wild pig taking liberties with our crab supply or a very rascally crab trying to find his way back to the creek…too tired to care I fell back to sleep after assuring Sarah that everything was OK and we weren’t about to be eaten by large ferocious animals. As it turned out one of the crabs had selfishly scurried up his friends back in order to get a purchase on the lip of the bucket, (Sarah thinks that remaining crab altruistically offered his life so that the other could go free) in true paratrooper style slithered down the edge and won his freedom….only to clamber a mere 3 metres from the bucket…not good enough to avoid my scrutiny, back to the bucket you go!
On to Bathurst Bay and our first taste of wilderness beach camping