Across the Gulf

Across the Gulf
August 28th

Lawn Hill National Park is an oasis amongst the harsh Gulf country. Only a mere 400 kilometres away, we unanimously decided to head there.

We started out along the unfuelled, unfenced Burke & Wills Developmental Road. This road really is quite different because there’s nothing out there apart from the Brahman Cattle, Droughtmasters, dust, heat, feral pigs, corrugations, mirages on the road, silence, red earth, empty rivers and willie-willies (these are Australia’s equivalent of Twisters or mini-tornadoes)

The Gulf is an area so strikingly isolated and remote it is almost beautiful. Looking for a decent camping spot, however, proved to be a nightmare. We’d head to a spot described in a road guide as “awesome and lush”, “stunningly tropical”, only to find a dried up creek bed. There is a big difference between driving through at the end of the dry season as opposed to during the wet when much of this otherwise barren land is transformed.

The day wore on, the camping spots deteriorated and become fewer and the further between……… The sun slowly melted into the cinnamon red earth. One of the most luxuriously long and magnificent sunsets ever. Too busy noticing the sunset to really care that it was dark and we hadn’t set up camp, we decided to push on to Gregory Downs River campsite. As darkness descended we slowed almost to a crawl, both tired and still hurt from the past few days. Neither of us wanting to repeat the tragedy of Sas.

At 7:30 we stopped by the side of a river, both utterly exhausted. The campsite was wrong but we tried to tell ourselves it was OKwe ended up in a fight, not a bad one, but it made us realise that we had to keep going.

We finally made it to the Gregory Downs hotel and the rudest reception of the journey so farGruffly we were told that we could camp down by the river. Uncertain as to which way to go (even though we’d asked for directions), we eventually found our way. The campsites by the river at Gregory Downs actually proved to be the nicest we’d seen all day. Although it’s difficult to set up camp in the dark, we did manage to find a spot amongst the caravans a few metres back from the flowing, croc-free river.

We set up the tent and made some dinner, and almost in a state of delirium washed the dust of the long drive away in the moonlit waters of the river. We laid down to sleep with the sound of the river and the diesel pump of the hotel thumping away in the background.

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