Bulldust and Bowthorn to get to the Border- Reaching the Northern Territory at last!
One of the many joys of driving around Australia has to be meeting up and travelling with other fellow adventurers. Andy & Karen, a young couple we hooked up with from Western Australia, were lots of fun and provided a great opportunity to compare trek notes, exchange hair-raising travel experiences and swap favourite destinations. They actually proved indispensable in pointing a short cut we were unaware of that ran from Lawn Hill through some large stations to the Northern Territory Border.- admittedly the road was in fact a 4WD track and was rumoured to have an 8 km stretch of bulldust 12 inches thick. However it was without doubt shorter than re-tracing our tracks back to Burketown before continuing on West. So….we headed out in convey.
The road initially started off calmly as it wound through the impressive Lawn Hill Station. Because the gorge runs straight through the centre of the property it is endowed with a permanent supply of water. Water is more precious than gold in the Gulf. As soon as we left Lawn Hill Station and entered the neighbouring Bowthorn Station we spotted the difference. The cattle looked weaker, less healthy, the land was poor for grazing, and the earth is hard and unforgiving for half the year during the dry. We navigated the bulldust which proved to be not nearly as dramatic as anticipated
We stopped at Bowthorn to chat with the owner and clarify directions for the rest of the drive. We passed an interesting half an hour talking with Kerry, one of the owners of the homestead. Over a cup of tea and raisin cake we began to appreciate just how remote and difficult life is on a property such as this. Kerry, a lovely lady and writer in her spare time, eloquently reminisced upon her 30 years on the family homestead. What a difficult life, being so merciless to the land throughout both the extremes of the dry and the wet seasons. Her heartbreaking stories of the extreme hardship required just to move food supplies onto the property left us with a chance to cherish the ease with which we live our lives.
Clutching a jar of zucchini relish and some fresh Bowthorn tomatoes, we merrily pushed on towards the infamous Hells Gate Roadhouse and Northern Territory Border. We knew we were getting closer as a string of cars from the nearby Aboriginal community of Doomadgee whizzed bye amicably waving, cheering, and throwing beer cans out the back of their ute. The Border was only precious minutes away!
After a well needed and deserved assortment of icy poles from the, aptly named, Hell’s Gate roadhouse we munched along and finally arrived at the border. Hallelujah!!!!! Yipppeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! We left Queensland behind and pushed on to the next portion of our journey. (Crossing state borders is an exciting event in a country that only has 6 states and is the size of the USA.)
As soon as we crossed the line we noticed 5 things instantaneously
1. The roads are better.
2. There are fewer dead animals on the roads.
3. It is hotter! (Is this physically possible?)
4. Northern Territorians don’t look angry and pissed off when you overtake them like Queenslanders do.
5. Cane Toads can jump across state borders!
We arrived at Wollogorang Station at dusk……our chosen camping destination for the night. The station has 1.76 million acres and 80 kilometres of pristine beaches along the Gulf. Quite a major property. Fencing a place like this must be a costly nightmare. The people were very friendly. We set up camp underneath their fig and mango trees, much to the annoyance of their pet shetland pony Mothball… Who seemed to mind sharing her paddock with us, weary travellers. After a scrummy home cooked meal and stubby of beer each, we retired for the night.
We awoke the next morning and after a quick cuppa with Andy & Karen, parted ways, exchanged mobile phone numbers, swore we’d bump into one another within the week…………. and headed out on the Roper Highway towards Darwin.