I was up early the morning we left Musgrave because I wanted to ring Bramwell Station and make arrangements for the return of our pole. I was rewarded with one of the most stunning sunrises I had seen in a long while. Almost made me forget I was surrounded by dust holes and corrugated roads. Almost, but not really.
After leaving Musgrave we drove south for about 20km and then left the PDR to travel cross-country to Normanton on a back road that would eventually meet up with the Burke Development Road and take us south west. I guess ‘cross-country’ is a relative term around here because every road feels like you are driving cross-country. In any event, this road had smaller dotted lines on our Hema map compared to the PDR, so I think of it as cross-country 😉
In fact, the road ended up being much better than the PDR, for the most part. We had first heard about it from watching The Big Lap DVD series and I suspect in the 10 or so years since that series was filmed, the road has been upgraded. There were still some fairly hairy places and at one point early on in the piece I actually did think our trip was about to come to a grinding halt. Brandon was doing a great job dodging some timber that was laying on the road when we both looked up and THUD – the car nose-dived into a small ravine crossing the road. I let out an almighty scream, I can’t remember what Charlotte did but knowing her she probably giggled uncontrollably because she’s her father’s daughter when it comes to off-road hijinks! We had landed quite hard and I was certain we weren’t going anywhere soon. Brandon got out to inspect the ‘damage’ and was pleased to report there didn’t appear to be any, despite the fact our front end was clearly in a trench and not on the road and our trailer hitch was touching the ground behind us. Cool as a cucumber, Brandon locks in the hubs, starts the car up again and slowly but surely drives us out of the hole we got ourselves into. We pull over a short way up the road to see if there was any missed damage or fluids leaking now that we were out of the hole and still nothing to be seen. Looking at the impact point, it seems the chassis railing and winch took the brunt of the hit, with a minor dent in the bullbar. Dodged a bullet there! (we are having problems with our dashcam or else I’d post footage of the incident – quite impressive really. Alas, we don’t have it recorded L )
Thankfully the rest of the drive was uneventful. As with every other road we have been on, we came across a number of stretches of road workers grading the road, and cattle. Lots and lots of cattle. And not pretty, soft cattle but drought-hardy, weary looking cattle. They look like they’re doing it tougher than me, that’s for sure. We saw the odd emu or two and plenty of other bird life, quite a few kangaroos and even a feral pig with some piglets! But other than that the drive really was quite boring. The scenery was far from picturesque – dry grass, brown trees that occasionally looked green. It’s such a tough country out here, I don’t know how anyone could live here and work this land. It would depress me too much. That being said, it was easy to see where the flood plain would go through in the wet season, based on how plants were growing and where the marshy areas were. Brandon and I commented to each other we’d like to see this area in the wet season to really appreciate it because it certainly isn’t much in the dry season!
The one part of the road that was a little different was when we had to cross the Mitchell River towards the end of this side road and approaching the Burke Development Road. During the wet season this would be an impassable stretch of water, and even in the dry season you need to take it easy. But they have a fiord in place and have laid rubber matting down on top to make the crossing much easier. I actually enjoyed the crossing and that’s saying something from such a scaredy-cat like me!
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road after crossing the Mitchell River. It was around this time I was grateful that we were carrying our own toilet! Admittedly it was strapped to the roof of the camper, but Brandon dutifully retrieved it for me and set it up beside the car so I could have a tinkle 😉 I’ve never been good at bush peeing – too OCD I suspect. But now we bring our own loo, I don’t need to be good at it! J Photo evidence not supplied LOL
Finally we reached Normanton. A nice little town, with phone reception (that is my new definition of whether a town is nice or not – does it have phone reception?) We pulled up to the caravan park and set up a quick camp site without the annex. It was nice to be back in civilisation for a while and we even had a swim at the pool! That is Charlotte’s new definition of whether something is nice or not – does it have a pool? 😉 The weather is still quite warm out this way – low 30s during the day – although it cools down in the evening to make sleeping in canvas quite pleasant.
From Normanton, we headed to Adels Grove in Lawn Hill National Park. It was (thankfully) an uneventful drive and we even managed to get away early! Yay us! On pack up days our intention is always to get going early and while the alarm is usually set for 7am or similar, we rarely jump right up and get going. Well, *I* do, but the rest of Team Hazelwood is a little slower off the mark! I usually look longingly at fellow campers who are all packed up and ready to drive off at 8am and wonder how they do it. But this time around, we were one of those campers and managed to hit the road by 8.30am. Unheard of.
The scenery around this area isn’t much to look at if truth be told – very dry trees, brown grassy plains. There are some lovely rock formations and mountains the look great in the setting sun as their rusty brown rocks pick up the sun’s rays. The nature walk you can do at Adels Grove was initially a walk over dry, dusty paths and I was beginning to lose faith with the ‘grove’ part of the name. But eventually we reached the creek and our view was transformed. The juxtaposition between the dry, arid surrounding countryside and the greenery around the water is quite remarkable.
There are two camp grounds at Adels Grove and because we wanted to be able to use our generator we had to go with the ‘top’ camp ground that was a little more dusty and less pretty. If we’d been willing to be self-sufficient we’d have been able to camp in The Grove, which is right next to the creek and more picturesque. It’s also more shady though meaning less success with solar panels. So we erred on the side of caution and chose the sunny, dusty site. We had some good neighbours who made for interesting company around the campfire at night.
We finally got the canoe into the water at Adels Grove! I told Brandon is he was going to all the trouble to bring the canoe, then it had to hit the water at least every second or third place we camped. Unfortunately crocodile warnings have laid rest to those plans, but here at Adels Grove the only crocs are 30-40 freshwater crocs that aren’t around the grove itself but further into the national park. They have canoe hire there if you don’t have your own so I took that as a good sign it was safe for the canoe to come off the boat loader 😉 We paddled up as far as we could go without having to take the canoe out of the water to go further upstream and hit some faster running water going back towards the way we came. We had to duck under the pandanas growing by the creek’s edge and struggled to keep heading upstream but eventually the current got the better of us and we shot back downstream! Later when I asked Charlotte what her favourite part of the day was, she said the bit when we went backwards fast in the canoe 😉
We also did a small cruise on the river and Lawn Hill Gorge in the national park itself and saw more of the waterways – quite stunning 🙂
The water has a very high calcium content and needs to be filtered before drinking – you can see the effects of the calcium on all the plants and water. A product called ‘tufa’ lays over everything – it is essentially hardened calcium deposits and means all the plant matter around these parts needs to be very hardy. For us humans the impact of the calcium is that it made everything really dry – you need to constantly apply moisturiser to cope with the drying effect on your skin. My fingerprint scanner on my mobile phone doesn’t recognise my fingers anymore thanks to the dry skin!
After 3 nights at Adels Grove, it was time to move on. But I’ll save that horror story for later – it really does deserve its own post!
Nights on the road (up to leaving Adels Grove): 20