(track on previous post)
We headed back towards Camooweal and then north to the Gulf up a sandy corrugated track to start. This is a good section
A lot of it was deepish sand. It was about 220 miles to Gregory Downs and about 50 required full concentration. We nearly lost the rear-end (interestingly) a few times. The K60 sucks in sand, but it was all they had in Mount Isa. It was a full day.
Sand shot. Too busy to get off the bike.
We’d heard that Gregory Downs marks the last time going north you can go in the water, whether sea, river, stream or billabong. Everything north has crocodiles. Just a few hundred yards past the village
Strip in under a minute and in we jump. Not cool enough but a life saver. The second best swim we’ve had since Galvins Gorge.
The water appears out of a huge spring back in the Northern Territory before making it here. Not even benign fresh water crocodiles
The narrow channel here had a strong current
Finches in the reeds on the bank. there are always beautiful birds no matter where you go. There are also a dozen species of deadly poisonous snakes in this part of Queensland. We have no idea where they live or what to avoid, but the locals don’t seem to think they’re an issue
The excellent roadhouse at Gregory Downs
The next day we had a short ride to Burketown very close to the Gulf. We were getting excited. Strangely the roads around Burketown are paved
Off we go
This is the territory we’re crossing to Karumba. The whole of Eastern Australia east of the hills and north of the desert drains into the Gulf here. This is one of many complex river systems and crocs swim up all the tributaries. Crocs almost define Northern Australia, everyone talks about them with fondness and fear. Everyone has stories. It’s how we start conversations, asking something about them. We ask: So are her crocs in the water here? Can I go for a swim? They say: NO! Huge crocs! Hundreds! every time. It’s great.
We pass a cattle pond
With a very special aquatic plant in it
Close up. It’s frilly
Then a river
A shame we can’t swim in it. It’s over 40C again
We walk across creased rock to a valley we see, a little downstream. There’s a Wallaby in the middle of this shot, if you squint
This exact spot from Google Earth
On a slab there’s a whole skeletal Wallaby fused to the surface
To a gorge
The short paved stretch to Burketown
This is cattle country and some of the biggest spreads in the world up here. Regular stations have an average (I’m told) of 20,000 head and the largest go up to 100,000 head on a million hectares. A geologist told me happily that a station he was on the previous day looses one head a day to crocs.
I was reading the history of some of the cattle stations here. For example in 1907 James Emerson was exploring up here and found some land he thought might make a good cattle station. So he arranged for a starter herd of 1026 head to be walked from Lismore, 2000 kilometers away. It was a 16 month journey, only 560 head made it, but it was considered a great success.
Below, hundreds of cockatoos over the cattle
Big horns on this one
Across another river
An area of fused rock that looks volcanic, but that can’t be, so a mystery
Another river. We’re crossing one every 30 minutes
We see some big birds on an island up-stream
Head up a small road to get closer. A crop of them flying away at the sound of Lucinda
A flock of them in the sky
Into Burketown. We stayed for a couple of days as it was fun too.
Where they had a hockey net for a garbage collection site
The next day we rode the spectacular Savanna Way to our destination
One of the many little bridges we crossed
Another species of termite. There are over 300 which explains the variety of mounds
High speed perfect dirt made for Lucinda.
Into Normanton which maybe the biggest town on the Gulf. I didn’t like it and cruised through
From Google Earth. This is a big town up here, the biggest on the Gulf. Further inland there’s virtually nothing. We’ll see that in a couple of months or so.
The have a life-size model of the world record Croc which was shot here, Guinness certified. It was 28’6” long. That’s my bike helmet on its head
But Normanton had a nice gas station
A quick 50 mile blast past
To Karumba (pop 518), our 2nd major destination after Darwin
We rode straight down to the water. Due north is New Guinea
Mangroves along the shore
Karumba is built on an alluvial flat. The rock is sedimentary fused seashells and silt
A good variety
A catfish skeleton, with its 3 poisonous spines intact
Mom, child and pelican watch dad fish