The Savannah Way is made up of many alternative routes, from the tame tar to the corrugated tracks. It has many pitfalls, from crocodile infested rivers to deep bull dust holes hidden in the track and the endless trial of corrugated roads on the Development roads. The Way stretches from Cairns to Broome but the later part in WA has been tamed mostly to tar as has the stretch from Cairns to Chillagoe… in between remains the dusty Development roads for which the Savannah Way gained its reputation.
You can tow a caravan across the full length of the Savannah Way and many have. Many have also had the caravan towed by professionals… into the nearest, often remote town as the caravan has been crippled on the more trying parts of the Way. Speed is the thing that does the most damage, then the troubles you can experience are often caused by lack of maintenance, such as attention to bushes and the such, not to mention the DUST. Tyres take a beating also but like most things with care, often comes success.
For us, it was not worth the trial of putting a valuable van through the test. Why would you when you have a camper trailer and swag at hand? This is very much camper trailer land and roof top tents also abound as do all range of tents. We have driven many testing tracks in our experience and the worst would have been the Telegraph Track of FNQ. (See the publication Cape York) Even today it is a track that you would not even dream of towing a van along. Indeed I wouldn’t recommend taking a caravan into Cape York at all north of Coen FNQ and once more it is speed which does the most damage, along with a thousand klm of often deeply dusty and badly corrugated roads which are graded less often that you would like, but it’s the red bull dust that tests you.
The adventure on the Savannah Way, for us, truly began at Hells Gate, just shy of the Territorian border. This was a route we had promised our selves for some time. Hells Gate is so named because of the remarkable eruptions of jagged rock that surround the outpost/road stop, and it is reminiscent of what you would imagine as entering hell as fanciful as that might be. Once into the NT though, the savannah lands change subtlety.
Some of the gems for the adventurer, of this cross continental route have been noted in my past posts “Savannah Way – Carpentaria” and “Savannah Way – Channel Country” but this post is about Limmen National Park and the Roper Highway section. This is much of the fun of it. We camped up at Clavert Crossing in a hidden little oasis tucked into the entry of the freecamp there. After so many long dusty miles travelled relatively quickly, this oasis sheltered us under a beautiful wild Moreton Bay fig tree for three glorious days of nothingness.
The Roper Highway … though the word highway beggars belief, is the road to Roper Bar, the Rover River and Ngukurr. It too comes with a reputation and at times it surely is a trial. The bull dust hole just out of Echo Valley caught us by surprise as do so many of these wilderness road traps. The corrugations on the Tawallah Range road are broad and deep and the creek crossings sheer fun. Don’t walk the crossings! As one Territorian said… anything that goes in the water/rivers doesn’t always come out in once piece.
You search for croc’s along these rivers, it is an entertainment, and they are wiley buggers. Often disdaining the crossing due the traffic, but they wait… nearby. It is around the corners and bends you will see them, hidden in the bracken and shadows and often in numbers barely 50 metres away. Not that I would recommend you go looking for them. If you must… then at night take a strong spot light to the river but stay high on the bank, you might just be surprised at the beady little eyes that you can see reflected back at you, watching… waiting.
The Lost Cities of the Limmen National Park are wondrous places, a privilege to wander through where you can marvel at the art of nature. Sunset or sunrise is the best of time, when the shadows are long and the colours painted with the pallet of seconds in passing time. It is truly a beautiful sight and worth the somewhat torturous track in. There is so much more to find, so much to see that the trip along the Savannah Way has become one very much entering the ‘epic’ realm of memories.
Jan is a author and traveller who lives fulltime on the road. You can discover more on her publications on travel in ‘Around the Campfire’ series and ‘Oldies at Large’. Join her as she travels this vast and mysterious land. You can also use the ‘follow’ button at the head of the page to receive notice of updates on the things you can learn about Aus’.