The highway to Hell (and beyond)

Up until this point I had been lead to believe that the worst driving conditions we would encounter would be on the Cape. Boy was I wrong!

We left Adels Grove with the intention of eventually getting to Katherine in the Northern Territory. We looked at the distances and decided to head to Borroloola, just over the NT border, for the night then push on to Katherine the next day. We went north through Lawn Hill Station and then on the Savannah Way to Hell’s Gate Roadhouse, where we stopped for lunch, fuel and water. On the way to Hell’s Gate, Brandon and I commented to each other that we wondered if the Hell that was being referred to was the road in to the roadhouse or the road beyond the roadhouse. We hoped it was the road in, because it was a pretty bouncy, unattractive dirt road. Turns out, we were wrong there too.

The road from Hell’s Gate to Borroloola was atrocious!! And to make it worse, we had bugs and dirt smeared all over the window, corrugations from hell (literally as it turned out), and as we were heading west, we had the sun directly in our sight for almost the entire afternoon. It was really bad. And we were on the road in total for that day for 9 hours. Never again. Our nerves were frayed and all three of us were in one hell of a bad mood when we got to Borroloola. We arrived just on dark and decided to get a cabin for the night because we wanted to head off again in the morning and after the emotionally draining, exhausting day we’d just had, we needed a rest.

We’ve been on the road for 3 weeks and have just crossed our first state border!
Never drive west into the setting sun on badly corrugated roads with poor visibility out your window 😦
In our tired state, from a distance these donkeys looked like people blocking the road in front of us. Gave us a bit of a fright then amusement when we realised what they were 🙂


Thankfully Borroloola has a nice place to eat so we grabbed a meal, had a hot shower and caught up on some sleep. The road to Katherine from Borroloola was all bitumen so we hoped the next day would be an easier day for us.

For the most part, it was easier. The driving conditions were certainly an improvement, although most bitumen roads in these parts are one lane and every time a car comes in the opposite direction you need to take one side of your car/camper off the road in order to pass oncoming vehicles. This can be a little difficult at times and cars with lesser quality tyres can find that quite dangerous given the large ridge between the bitumen and the dirt next to it. But Brandon managed these diversions with minimum fuss and the car, camper and inhabitants made it unscathed to Katherine. We stopped to make lunch at Daly Waters outside the pub – quite a well-known place and certainly full of character!


At one point we even saw a bushfire on the road – it might be winter, but the dry 32 degree days make for great fire weather – gulp!

It was another long day – 6 hours on the road and we set up in the dark. [Note to self: setting up in the dark is hard enough; doing it with a camper trailer makes it harder; doing it without causing world war three between married partners is even harder; add to that 15 hours of driving out of the past 32 hours and it’s a wonder B and I are still married!].

While mulling over a beer later that night Brandon and I agreed no more long days. We need to slow down and take our time. We are about a week ahead of schedule so we clearly have time up our sleeve and need to enjoy our days more. That means doing more bush camps on the side of the road to break up the long days of driving (if only the roads were pretty enough to encourage us to sleep next to them!). Our next big leg is across the Gibb River Road, so we have promised to slow down, travel less each day and smell the roses, as it were.

One thing we were doing in Katherine was picking up some Clearview mirrors we had ordered earlier in our trip. They were waiting for us at AutoPro Katherine (can’t rate these guys highly enough – they ordered these mirrors for us on nothing but a promise we’d be in town some time in the next 10 days or so, and didn’t ask for a deposit or anything. That’s a $650 gamble they took and we were very grateful!

Our new Clearview towing mirrors

In total we will have spent 6 nights in Katherine by the time we leave. It’s not that there’s huge amounts to see and do here but we really just needed a nice long break to recharge.

The giant fig tree at the Big 4 Katherine caravan park is decorated and has a restaurant under it – just lovely 🙂


Katherine Hot Springs – luke warm water but nice all the same


Celebrating being back in civilisation by getting our nails done 😉


Northern Rosellas at the campground – lovely!

We have also had the lovely surprise of meeting up with some people we know while here! Well, sort of know. Christine and Andrew and their children Ines and Linc are on the road for 6 months and set out about 3 months ahead of us. They started out travelling over to WA and were making their way east so we hoped we’d meet up at some point and we were even planning to slightly alter our itinerary to try to find them. Brandon went to school with Christine but hadn’t seen much of her since other than on Facebook. Reading Chris’s posts, I felt we had a lot in common so I was looking forward to meeting her and Andrew. We have been following their progress on their Facebook blog – 20,000-km’s in a shitbox camper trailer. It was a great joy to see them setting up in the same caravan park we were staying in two days ago 🙂

We spent the day together yesterday doing a day trip to Katherine Gorge, then up to Edith Falls for a swim. We planned to eat lunch at the Gorge but the only grassy, shady patch of land out there was home to hundreds of fruit bats! It was smelly and unattractive so we decided to have lunch at Edith Falls instead.

Fruit bat city
The gorge lookout
An impressive view at the top
The climb up to the lookout at Katherine Gorge was pretty steep but worth it!
The climb up to the lookout at Katherine Gorge was pretty steep but worth it!

Unfortunately we didn’t get to eat lunch at Edith Falls. We had our first mechanical problem on the road between the Gorge and the falls that saw us laid up on the side of the road for an hour or so while Brandon fixed the problem. Thankfully because we were following Christine and Andrew, we had company and the kids were able to keep each other amused while they ate and waited for the car to be fixed. The fan belts had all come off and the alternator was being held on by a thread. Brandon had brought replacement belts with him thankfully and he and Andrew were able to replace them all and tighten up the alternator and we were good to go. Such handy folks! But we think this was probably caused by the thousands of kilometres of corrugations we have travelled on these past few weeks.

Not a sight you really want to see while travelling 😦
Linc and Ines kept Charlotte company in the shade as they waited patiently for the car to be fixed.
Brandon trying to poke his tongue out at me while snorkeling at Edith Falls – he needed that swim after the car repairs!
Charlotte and Brandon’s first snorkeling adventure on this trip – Edith Falls was great for that. Fish nibble your feet if you stand still long enough!

We leave Katherine tomorrow nicely refreshed and ready for our next adventure. Charlotte has had some good play time with some children her own age, we have had some nice conversation with likeminded people and we are ready to cross the border to Western Australia and start our next adventure – the Kimberley!

Nights on the road so far: 26.