In Anticipation of the Far North

360 degrees of flat horizons. Yea!

On 26 July, we’ll set out on our second post-Covid road trip out west in Queensland. Playing it safe, we won’t be crossing any state or territory borders. I can hardly wait.

We won’t be pulling a van, or carrying a tent. I’m booking accommodation in advance at every watering hole we plan to visit. I’m sure the trip will be an adventure, with some of it unpredictable. Even the process of making a booking is throwing up some weird stuff.

Let’s look at the far north leg of our proposed journey, the leg that encompasses remote places we have never visited before. It stretches from Gregory Downs, through the Gulf townships of Burketown, Normanton, and Karumba, before linking up with territory more familiar to us, i.e. Georgetown and Mt Surprise on the Savannah.

Do you know where Gregory Downs is? We’ll stay there on the way to Boodjamulla National Park (previously Lawn Hill National Park) on the border with the Northern Territory. The nearest city to Gregory Downs is Mount Isa, and it’s 400-500 km away. So we’re talking remote here.

When booking accommodation at the Gregory Downs Hotel for one night (10 August), I had a good long talk with Jo, the proprietor. She sounds like a real character with plenty of heart. Believe it or not, the place is nearly fully booked, even this far in advance. This, it seems, is the new (Covid) normal.

When I pressed Jo for information on our next port of call, Boodjamulla NP, her reply was daunting. Accommodation is at a place called Adels Grove within the Park, where I have booked us three nights in a pre-erected tent. By all reports, Boodjamulla is a very beautiful place, with plenty of things to do and see.

Jo told me the new management there – aboriginal – is inexperienced, and on a steep learning curve. There were very bad reports of them earlier in the year, but hopefully they’ll have got their act together by the time we arrive. They do not reply to phone or email, and I only just made my booking before their website crashed. Uncontactable. Not a good omen. So it’ll be interesting times when we get there.

If it comes to the crunch, we can always sleep in the car. The seats in our Subaru Outback fold down to make a full-length bed.

The small towns adjoining the Gulf of Carpentaria – Burketown, Normanton, and Karumba – are about as remote from big capital cities as anything in Oz. It’s crocodile country, and the crocs are of the saltwater variety. Man-eaters. And women-eaters. They don’t discriminate. We’ll be careful.

When I lived in Melbourne – years ago, in what seems now like a previous incarnation – we used the phrase ‘going via the Gulf of Carpentaria’ to mean ‘going the long way round’. If you’re going from A to B via the G of C, then you really don’t know where the hell you’re going. You’ve lost your effing way. Well now, we’re actually going to this mythical place, and on purpose. How good is that?

I imagine we’ll encounter some amazing characters there, people a bit like Jo from Gregory Downs perhaps. People larger than life. People unlike anybody you’d meet in a big city. People unlike those thoroughly civilized folk I surround myself with in the little coastal village of Keppel Sands where I live. It’s an experience to which I’m really looking forward.

I’ll report back to you in a future blog to let you know if our trip across the far north lived up to expectations. In the meantime, expect me to report on our plans prior to and following this far north adventure.

And I’ll keep my fingers crossed about Boodjamulla National Park.