We have been on the Savannah Way now for a week and I have learnt one thing. That is that I love the Gulf country of Queensland. I have always considered the country that travels across the Top of Aus to be very similar. Stretching from East to West it is some 4,000 klm of remote regions and seasonal monsoonal rains that can bring with it vast sheets of flooding water, and long months of baking sun. Not to mention the challenges the Outback can deliver. In some ways the terrain is similar, but in many ways it is made up of many totally different regions I have discovered.
Travelling along the patchwork roads of the Savannah Way has always been on the ‘to-do’ list and even though we have touched on regions such as Kakadu in the NT and Riversleigh in our ‘Dinosaur Tour’, there are vast stretches that we haven’t travelled. Across the Gulf Country from coast to coast is a whole new experience.
Recently we toured Cape York, a true 4×4 adventure and it was exceptional but now we have pointed our noses west and the land we have found is stunning. It is a land which winter doesn’t touch often during the day but the nights, unexpectedly they can be bitter. This time however is the breaking of spring and we are leaving the bitter cold of the winter nights of the Gulf and Ouback behind for the blazing heat of summer promised.
With the season we are now in, the skies are commonly that beautiful clear azure blue but in other seasons I know it can be very different. Our time exploring the tablelands of Kakadu some years ago taught me about the heavy humid heat and the tropic monsoonal storms. I learnt about their raging beauty then, but now it is spring and we are seeing the first buds of the wildflowers.
I have experienced the weighty heat of humidity that can blanket this land in summer and learnt the measures you can take to keep cool when the mercury climbs regularly into the 40’sC (100-110F). These things do not worry me much any more, but it’s other considerations that are on your mind up in these latitudes.
It is a world that is ruled by the wilderness. A world where dealing with bloody great lizards is a day-to-day consideration. They will eat you without a second thought!
It is a world where the raptors rule, the kites and eagles claim the skies and you are merely a diversion for them. It is a world where Mother Nature reigns supreme and to see her rule is a magnificent thing.
Walking or fishing along the beaches is fraught with dangers. There are sink holes and crocodiles to deal with. Swimming is a no-no… the croc’s and sharks would enjoy the snack. When fishing you even ensure you cast and stand well back from the waters edge, where the big lizards hunt. Anyone headed across the top should visit a crocodile farm and familiarise themselves with the dangers before they go. But it is also a beautiful land, which is wild and wonderful.
The local’s are a delightful and hardy breed of people in general. Tourism is a seasonal thing and for months on end the towns of the Gulf, the Stations and Homesteads are cut off from the world in the Wet season. If it wasn’t for such wonderful things as aeroplanes and the rattling Gulflander train that services remotely between Normanton and Croydon, they would be truly cut off from the rest of the world in the Wet, which is fast approaching.
In general the tourists up here are all Aussie southerners. It is only the most intrepid of international backpackers who ever discovered the Gulf country. International tourists generally don’t make it this far. The going is demanding and you need to be equipped, there are few enough services and resources and the remote regions… are remote.
As the summer overtakes the land there are fewer tourists all together. The Grey Nomads and semi-retired travelling workers are here in the northern winter, seeking the stronger tropic sun. They are the fishermen and women, those following the dream. Others are the adventurers, the young men who are seeking a special world of 4×4 hard driving and hunting with the permissions gained from the vast Stations and Homesteads. It is an interesting world and we are thoroughly enjoying it.
The small settlement towns of the Gulf are a special delight and taking time to discover them can be very rewarding. Karumba is the only town that sits on the edge of the Gulf waters and this is where the raptors rule. There isn’t a seagull to be seen anywhere. The ‘black kite’ is the Karumba seagull and The Man had a run in with one of these birds that was looking to collect hair for her nest. We had been warned about watching the pups. The kites, the eagles and the croc’s were all interested but we weren’t expecting to be considered a prospect ourselves.
Then there is Normanton… what a delight. The freecamp on the Norman River, across the town bridge was a particular draw. So close to the town it is a comfortable stay in dry weather and gives the freecamper the opportunity to explore and enjoy the town.
The Gulflander train travels between Croydon and Normanton, though its home is Normanton Rail Station and a must see if you are in the area. There is a caravan park if you prefer but The Man and I are freecampers and we love the lifestyle so this was our first choice.
Venturing into a rail station and a railhead to find a museum is not what you would expect but what a wonderful collection of memorabilia the free museum at the Normanton railway station is well worth a visit. Listening to the history of the Gulflander on the video presentation is a special and interesting delight. But that is my next post.
We are looking forward to our venture across the Savannah lands of the Top over the next months and I hope you will join us and enjoy the journey as much as we are going to.
Travel Well… I’ll post again soon. I gotta go catch a train from somewhere to nowhere.
Jan is an Author and you can find out more about her books here under the tab ‘The Dreaming,’ for fiction tales of the Ancient Aboriginal Lore woven through contemporary times. Tales of the ancient Kadaitcha, or the Featherfoot of a truly unique Lore.
Or enjoy some of her travelogues and tales of past adventures, published in both e-book and print under Around the Campfires and Oldies at Large.
You will find her on Facebook where you too can become part of the adventure. You never know… you might just catch up with her and The Man around the ridges somewhere.