Gulf 2

Wiser travellers have gone home. We’re almost in the hot part of the hot season and waiting for something called ‘the build-up’. This is the most dreaded time of year up north. It’s the transition period between dry and wet seasons. The humidity goes through the roof to 100% and with 45C/112F temperatures it’s unbearable even for the locals. When the rains start the oppression actually drops somehow and life changes to just miserable heat and cyclones. We haven’t seen a rider in weeks and people are looking at us strangely. Nearly every single person asks us if we’re OK and aren’t we hot. They like this drama and we end up in long conversations. They all have a story to tell about the heat and the places they’ve been or are going. Australians love to talk about Australian extremes. Nothing makes them happier than talking about crocodiles for example. Except sports and the upcoming Melbourne Cup, come to think of it.

But bad news. Our route along the Gulf Coast, has a new problem for us. The Hell’s Gate roadhouse is closed. This means a 449 mile ride to Normanton with no gas and possibly no water. We calculate we need 20 additional liters of gas and 20 of water and there’s no way we’re doing that, even if we found the way to carry it, on dirt. So we ask around and figure out a new way back onto the route via Camooweal, which has a dirt approach from the south back onto Savanna Way. It’s an additional 600 miles to our route. But it works out fine for a few reasons, seeing our new places and then Australia’s token hell hole (by local consensus) being two of them

The track, a little over 1000 miles
Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 12.52.42 PM

Nothing much is different but heading back to Cape Crawford through Borroloola we see a cattle station just off the road

There are different types of cattle up here, depending on what we have no idea. We haven’t seen this type before

But the odd thing is that the termite mounds have been built up around the iron fence posts. We wonder what the time scale is here

A close up

In Cape Crawford, population around 50, is a famous roadhouse with cabins called the Heartbreak Hotel

The cabins are super deluxe so we rent one. Normally we don’t blog about places stayed or non-riders met but this was the nicest place we’ve stayed in the outback

Inside the roadhouse they have a big chalk board with the top ten stupidest questions asked here and the #1 is why is this called the Heartbreak Hotel? or #2 is why is this place called Cape Crawford with no sea and no Cape? so we obviously don’t ask and there are no fellow travellers to ask.

The next day more of our usual landscape. The speed limit in the Northern Territory is 130kph, dropping to 100kph in Queensland down the track. But we’ve never seen a cop on the road so ride at the maximum sustainable for the 90 minutes between stops and a bottle of water

On the road to Barkly Homestead from the north

We passed this shrub again

The flower

There were a series of large windmills, some spinning

Some not


We found a shade tree

After 100 miles or so we gained a little elevation and started across the huge Tablelands

It was brutally hot. We passed wallabies hiding under small trees

Which ran away when I stopped

And passed another small shrub, this one just maybe 6″ off the ground

The flower

From Barkly we headed ESE into Queensland towards Camooweal (population 185). There’s an Australian song about Camooweal but I haven’t found it on-line to link to here. As it turned out we really liked the village and stayed a few days

The town looks like this

The awesome pub with a veranda

A typical elevated house

Camooweal from Google Earth. Red earth under everything

Other than the great people and terrific situation (surrounded by nothing for 100’s of miles) what really made it special was this. The trees were stuffed with Cockatoos and Gulahs

The beautiful thing was that at about 10 each morning they would fly the skies over Camooweal from horizon to horizon

Sometimes they would fly with their own species. The Gulahs


Or the Cockatoos

Close up

But when they flew as one huge group, thousands of birds, they would start screaming with a volume beyond belief.

And if a stray crane or eagle came by some would follow that, as here
DSC06938 - Version 2

It was wonderful.

Around Camooweal, and once-in-a-while elsewhere, people dress the termite mounds. Sometimes with just a t-shirt, sometimes also with a hat. Usually this is done close to the road


Sometimes in groups or two or more. I’m not sure exactly what the reason is, we keep forgetting to ask, but there’s one very strong effect: at night under the stars or moon they’re scary, which is a cool effect

The night sky here is incredible as you can imagine. There’s no atmospheric pollution, no light pollution for about 1000 miles except Mount Isa a couple of hundred miles away, and the air is dry.

It looks like some of the t-shirts have been here for years. The mounds have grown around them

Up close

A field of mounds

Then on to Mount Isa to get a new rear tyre. Mining town, shithole


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Tom D.,

    So at the Heartbreak Hotel, those questions aren’t ‘stupid’ – they’re ‘obvious’. The stupidity is in not addressing the obvious! So who’s stupid here?

Leave a Reply