How do you know when you have reached the Outback? There is no sign when you drive so we have designed this simple test:Is the earth red? Check
Is it hot? Check
Are the road trains(trucks) over 50 metres long? Check
Is there no one around for miles and miles? Check
Are there lots of flies around? Check
Are there amazing views of the stars at night? Check
If all these tests are met then it is likely you are out in the Outback.
Our adventure into the Outback started at Undara. The reason for coming here was not to see the Outback, we would soon be seeing plenty of that, but to see the amazing lava tubes from a volcano that erupted a couple of hundred thousand years ago. When the volcano had erupted the lava had flowed and then cooled on the outside while continuing to flow underneath. Over time these had formed long tubes that now looked like deep caves. We took an interesting tour to explore this unusual feature and to take a walk inside some of the really large tubes.
From there the real outback begun. It was miles upon miles of dusty terrain. Fortunately the road was good although the tar did go to single lane in places. Along the way we passed tiny little towns with familiar names such as Croydon. We spent our first night camped near the road with silence all around. The stars and the Milky Way were magnificent overhead.
We arrived in the large (population 1,400) town of Normanton. Here we got to understand just how dangerous Saltwater Crocodiles can be. In the middle of town there is a life size model of the largest ever such crocodile that was shot nearby. Mmm, certainly don’t want to be tangling with anything like that.
From there we headed to Karumba, on the Gulf of Carpentaria – their slogan “Where the Outback Meets the Sea”. As the town is westwards facing towards the gulf it is famous for its spectacular sunsets, so we headed to the pub on our first evening there to enjoy it with a well needed cold beer.
But Karumba is actually more famous as a fishing mecca. The sandy estuary attracts plenty of fish and in season, lots of fisherman. We were there just before the season took off so were able to secure spots on a boat going out the next morning with two other couples. It was a great morning. We all caught plenty of fish and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I am really pleased that the kids enjoyed it so much and didn’t get bored as it means we can all go another time. In fact we caught far more than we could fit in our little fridge and freezer so only took a select few blue salmon and a Queenfish. Gilly was also pleased that the gulf was as flat as a millpond so she could enjoy the fishing too.
That night we headed back to the pub. Not just to enjoy the sunset but also to enjoy the fish. The pub would cook any fish you had caught and serve it with chips and salad so that seemed far preferable to cooking it ourselves, plus we could enjoy the view.
It was a long drive to our next stop, Lawn Hill National Park. We were also not sure if the roads there were open as some were still closed after the Wet. We arrived in Gregory (population 40),the biggest place of note for quite some way. From Gregory there was two ways we could approach the park. The shorter route had a sign saying ” Road Closures ahead, phone council on ..” The only problem was that there was no mobile phone reception in town. There was a public phone but it wasn’t working. Just one of those Outback things. We met a couple of Council workers who just shrugged that the phones were not working, they said their office phone didn’t work either. However they recommended we took the longer route which we did.
On this route we still had to cross a couple of rivers. There were causeways across the rivers but as they were covered in algae and very slippy I am not sure they helped matters. On the way to the National Park we stopped at Riversleigh Fossil Area. This is a very important fossil discovery area and is a World Heritage listed site. There was not much to see on the walk around though and it was very hot (39 degrees) doing the walk in he middle of the day. Alisha and Lucy thought we had gone back to Africa as the scenery reminded us of Namibia.
Lawns Hill National Park is set around a series of deep flame-red sandstone gorges with the Gregory river running through it. It was very hot while we were there so most activities were best done in the morning. While we were there we hired some canoes and had a lovely trip canoeing up the gorge. We also did some nice short walks. For one of the walks, as the pontoon bridge was away for maintenance, we had to swim across the river to get to the walk. The scenery was spectacular and it was a lovely place to spend a few days.