So this week we drove the road from hell.
First stop, appropriately, Hells Gate.
This blog post covers 4th to 10th September, from Normanton, QLD to Darwin, NT.
Things started off uneventfully, as these things often do. We filled up and left Normanton by about 9am. The road was a mixture of sealed one and two lane roads, and gravel.
We shared the one lane roads with oncoming road trains, so we just pulled over and gave them space.
We had originally planned to stay the night in Burketown, but we were there by 12noon so we stopped for some lunch next to the Burketown Bore, and decided to keep driving. The bore was drilled back in 1897 that still has hot water flowing out of it. There is so much salt in the water that the hole has built up over time and created some amazing colours in the swampy area around the bore.
As we kept driving, there were less and less sealed sections and the road was pretty corrugated in some areas and big pot holes here and there.
Hells Gate Roadhouse is basically a two pump petrol station associated with the cattle station there. They’ve got a café and bar, camping ground and an airstrip. Everything is dusty, but they have good showers and plenty of space to camp. (But WHY do people have to park so close to us when there is space EVERYWHERE and then proceed to light their campfire at 9pm and then open and close every freakin container they own… multiple times?)
Corrugations, river crossings and hitchhikers
Leaving Hells Gate Roadhouse I was pretty excited that the border to the Northern Territory was just 50kms away.
We stopped for the obligatory photo opportunity and thought that would be the most exciting thing that happened that day. Au contraire…
Over the border we finally got some different landscape as we wound through some hills and hit the really bad corrugations. At first they had the car shaking so furiously that the natural instinct is to slow down, but that didn’t help either. Driving along at 20kms an hour as the whole car shakes furiously was worse than driving at 70kms as the car shakes just a tad less furiously.
Cresting the top of a hill we looked down the road to find a river running over the road. Our first river crossing! We quickly discussed whether we should do the right thing and one of us get out to check the depth. But it wasn’t exactly a raging river, more like a creek, so Ben chucked it in 4WD and drove through.
It wasn’t till we got to the other side where we stopped (mainly so we could get out and do high fives) that we saw this sign. How come they got the sign on this side but we didn’t on our side??
We rattled our way onwards for another one hundred kilometres or so until we came across three locals waving us down next to a small scrub/grass fire. We stopped to find out what was wrong and found out they just needed a ride to the next town, Borroloola… only 150 km away!
Now, we’re not normally people who pick up hitch hikers, but when someone flags you down on a deserted road next to a scrub fire in the middle of nowhere, on a hot day, 150kms from the nearest town… well you at least stop to make sure everyone’s okay.
And then when you find out they’re just trying to get a ride into town, well how can you just leave three people stranded there when technically you do have the room to accommodate them (even though it means moving everything from the back seat into either the boot or the trailer).
For the benefit of our mums – Mum, we’re not crazy and picking up every Tom, Dick and Harry we see on the road. These three were two women and a man, they looked older, maybe 40’s-50’s and were very nice about asking for a ride (if somewhat insistent. Given the circumstances I can understand that). If it had been three young men or if there was something weird about them, you can rest assured that we wouldn’t have been letting them into our car.
As it turns out, Cheryl, Margorie and Logan were lovely, we chatted about the aboriginal communities they live in, they pointed out the tracts of land that Logan owns and they had local knowledge of the three more river crossings we had to navigate (being the dry season, they were easy and shallow anyway).
We dropped off our new friends in Borroloola and found a caravan park for the night.
The Final Push to Darwin
The last 30kms in to Borroloola yesterday were the worst part of the road I think, but from here on in it’s sealed one & two lane roads. Phew!
We made just one more overnight stop (in Daly Waters) before hitting Katherine. The price of caravan parks has jumped up dramatically now that we’re in the top end, and we paid $43 per night. We were happy to pay that though, as we’ve got a lovely shady spot under the mango trees, there’s a refreshing pool to cool off in, and reliable cell single. Happy days.
We spent half a day exploring the Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park and then made the final push to Darwin.
But… Darwin was so freakin hot that we didn’t last there long.
Hells Gate Roadhouse
Unpowered site – $18 per night ($9 per person)
McArthur River Caravan Park
Powered site – $30 per night
Daly Waters Pub (Campground)
Unpowered site – $18 per night ($9 per person)
Shady Lane Tourist Park
7th – 9th September
Powered site – $43 per night
Discovery Parks Darwin
Powered site – $42 per night
BP Normanton $1.41/L
Hells Gate Roadhouse $1.70/L
TJS Borroloola $1.51/L
Daly Waters Pub $1.471/L
BP Katherine $1.299/L