Location: Lawn Hill, Queensland – Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Distance: 1318km

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) had been a good home for a few days but doesn’t take me long to miss the open road. Adam made me another of his delicious coffees (going to miss those) while I loaded up the trucker including 16L of water. It was 140km to Doomadgee, nothing in between and road conditions were questionable at best. Quickly backtracked 20km past Adel’s Grove and a few sun baking snakes to the Lawn Hill Station turn off. “Just follow the signs to KFC” a passing station hand had said, “the road’s not too bad.” That made me laugh while I mentally applied a liberal amount salt to his advice. A few gates later, another snake and a herd of horses the station hand was right but that’s about as far as the “road” went. I crossed Lawn Hill Creek passing a funky smelling dingo and was greeted by a rough track on the other side.

 

KFC - KingFisher Camp.

Nothing to hide from the sun in out here.

Right about now some suspension would be nice.

 

A more accurate description would be a continuous, overlapping string of potholes created by cattle hooves; bumpy as hell. My progress slowed to a meager 10km/h or so playing a never ending game of dodge the worst of the pot holes even if that mean going off road, riding through the grass. The bumps managed to shake lose a couple of water bottles at some point before lunch which I walked back a couple of kilometres looking for but without success. By day’s end I had covered about 50km of the cattle track, passed a single ute, experienced my hottest temp so far, 43°C and worked up some impressive blisters on my palms (hard work steering with so much water on the front rack). At least there was a nice sunset and I had a lovely bunch of flies for company.

 

50km from anyone or anything, except the flies.

Sunrise on the Doomadgee track.

The murky Elizabeth Creek. Some didgos watched me from the other side.

 

It was more of the same the next morning, including a murky 3′ deep crossing at Elizabeth Creek with a couple of dingos watching on curiously. After an hour or so things looked up and I was riding on something that resembled a road and it stayed that way all the way to Doomadgee where I made a beeline for the impressively well stocked supermarket where I briefly ran into Luke who had given me a ride to Gregory Downs a few days earlier. Before heading on I checked in at the roadhouse to ask about the road ahead, learnt nothing useful but did get a look from the lade there that said “You gonna die!” That put a smile on my face but it would have been nice to know about the 10km sand dune inspired road I had to trudge through. Eventually made camp some 2 hours later, hot and sandy.

 

Teeny, tiny, frog.

Water trickles over the Doomadgee floodway.

Doomadgee Post Office.

+1 for pedal power. The sand sea road from Doomadgee.

My first border crossing!

 

Passed a whopping 2 cars on the way to Hell’s Gate, the last dot on the map before the border. No sooner than I had scoffed down a pie and coke Adam and Tamsin pulled up having left Lawn Hill that morning following my tyre tracks the whole way here. Over a quick catch chat up I was offered a ride to which I could hardly say no. The lady at Hell’s Gate was far more positive about the road ahead but did say we were the first tourists for the season. We made good time – a quick photo stop at the NT border – before making out way through some amazing rocky outcrops and a small range. The mighty Calvert River appeared and Adam and I, each with a big stick in hand and some keen eyes made a crossing on foot to scout the safest route. Some big rocks and a couple of holes over 1m deep but no crocs. The Landcruiser took it in its stride and we motored on to arrive at Robinson River on dusk.

 

Gearded up to cross the Calvert River.  Dawn at Robinson River Crossing. Beautiful. Robinson River, pretty but for the hiding crocs.

Allegedly the first tourist crossing of Robinson River for the season.  Easy peasy.

The TATO crew about to head to Seven Emu station.

Weryan River. Had to unload to cross here. 5 return trips :/.

 

The crossing could wait till morning. A big fire, baked bean jaffles and cold beer. Good finish to the day. We woke to a heavy fog, glowing soft pink and purple in the early light but was burnt off slowly by the rising sun. Although much swifter flowing the Robinson was an easy crossing with a smooth bed of sand and half the depth of the Calvert. Tall leafy paperbarks, pandanus and palms would make it a lovely swimming hole if not for the ever present but invisible salties. A quick blast up the road and it was time for me to move under my own power again. A hot and sticky ride into Borroloola with a couple of deepish river crossing and more corrugations than I care to remember made for slow going but I found myself a mascot, blind Elmo and ticked over the 5000km milestone. Ignoring all the usual signs I set up camp in a park next to the airfield where my mate Bill used to be based as a pilot.

 

My new mascot, blind Elmo takes a break.

Another foggy start leaving Borroloola.

270kms of nothing.

Really long, straights. At least the clouds kept the temps down.

Long hours in the saddle mean big meals.

Big mother trucker.

 

Another bank of eerie purple fog greeted me at the dawn of a long day to the Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford. Little of note along the way apart from the gargantuan mine trucks. Each nearly 100m long, towing 4 trailers with 130 tyres. A brief shower arrived on dusk – the first rain I’d seen in nearly a month – heralding the start of some cooler weather and after temps notching into the early 40’s since Undara it was a welcome change indeed. The clouds hung low on the lonely stretch of road to the Stuart Highway; 270km of nothing but savannah. Some impressively close bolts of lightning sparked small fires but none lingered long in the constant drizzle. On a 60km stretch of dead straight road, Bob from the Heartbreak Hotel pulled up and offered a ride. An easy decision allowing me to reach the Daly Water Pub for lunch on ANZAC Day. Two-up, ten-pin bowling, a live band, a hearty parmigiana and cold beer.

 

Can you see the enthusiasm?

Ten pin bowling with 6 pins. I missed.

Daly Waters Pub. Money, underwear, bras, business cards, stickers and more.

 

I took a ride with Rob and Bev to Katherine where I found my first fully fledged supermarket since Atherton, 6 weeks earlier. Freshly baked bread, salami, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate and more, I was in food heaven.  The landscape changed little over the final 3 days to Darwin but I did manage to find one of my best camp sites so far. Far enough off the highway to avoid traffic noise, no mosquitoes and plenty of wood for a big camp fire. Watched the sun paint the horizon orange and pink before the stars came out and the milky way drifted across the sky.

 

Coldest morning so far. Actually pulled out the sleeping bag in the wee hours.

Try as I might I couldn't break the speed limit.

Bargain basement prices here in Pine Creek compared to the two previous road houses.

Luckily I was short on bananas.

Pine Creek Post Office.

My own private campfire.


 

It took me a week to finally leave Darwin, solely because I couldn’t book an earlier flight. Luckily it was a nice enough place to relax and sort our some housekeeping; final hep b shot, insurance and sent some unneeded gear home. Relaxed in Bicentennial Park, cruised around town, ate at the Mindil Beach night market and sorted many a photo. Finally on the 5th May it was time to leave and on the way to the airport I ticked over the 6000km milestone, some 1500km than I had originally planned.

 

Starry skies, campfire and far from the highway (quiet). Top camp site.

1 skink, 2 tiny, hiding, scorpions.

Adelaide River Post Office. The trucker warms after my last camp site in Oz.

Besides watching the top of a an overly active thundercloud somewhere above the Arafura Sea it was an uneventful flight from Darwin to Denpasar. 30 day VOA (Visa On Arrival) are issued without question for US$25. I’ll have to extend it somewhere down the road (a process I’ve heard all sorts of stories about) as 30 days for such a sprawling country is never going to be enough.

So simple yet, so good. Breakfast in Bicentennial Park, Darwin.

New harbour development in Darwin.


Sunset behind a storm from Mindil Beach, Darwin.

One of the many food stalls at Mindil Beach Night Market.

 

A tip for those who ever arrive at Depasar airport and need a cab. Walk a few minutes out through the car park and jump in a cab on the street, the price will fraction of that from the airport itself. Unfortunately with 2 large panniers and an oversized bike box that wasn’t an option for me and I ended up paying an exorbitant Rp250,000 (about $27) for the 20 minute ride to my hostel.  I didn’t care though. I was glad to finally be in a new country, with a language I didn’t understand, a smörgåsbord of new foods to try and that strangely familiar, funky Asian city smell. Humidity is through the roof and there are more scooters/mopeds/motorbikes that I’ve seen anywhere else before. Selamat malang.

A whisker under my 40kg limit.

Bike box. Qantas = $16.50, Jetstar = $15. Same box.

4 comments

More awesome photos and amazing adventures. And Post Office photos! Good job! Looking forward to the first update from the place across the seas!!
Take care of yourself!
Jen
x

Andrew Priest

Another great read, awesome photos and I love the idea of the Post Office photos. Hope you don’t mind but I am going to steal that one. I think it is better than “town halls.”

Looking forward to reading of your visit to Indonesia.

Purple sunrise is my new fave of your trip! Stunning starry nights you had…Hope Indo is treating you well…Can’t wait to read more…

Congrats on making it all the way up Oz and into Asia- exciting stuff! Lookin forward to many more adventures!

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