Next day was chores, as is the case after a big adventure. Laundry, a big stock up at the local supermarket - food shopping in the north is a different experience to the southern parts of this country, especially in country areas. Lack of regular supply, customers, and the cost of freight means variety is limited, less things are fresh (and things are less fresh), more frozen and canned stuff, but hey, you get by.
Rare Prado Spyder model.
We also needed to do some planing for the next stage of the journey. We had kind of been freewheeling since Broome. Even East Arnhem Land had been an on the fly decision.
I’ve got no problem with freewheeling, but doing some forward planning is definitely beneficial at times. We’re also coming somewhat to the end of this particular adventure, so we have to think sometime about heading home...
We also checked out the local pools, the main reason most people stop at Mataranka. Pretty, although a bit smelly with the sulphorous smell of the decaying plants.
So, after a day to reset, it was time to move on from Little Roper Stockcamp.
A couple of hundred kays of bitumen took us to Roper Bar, not before stopping to help this bloke pulled over in his Hilux “All ok mate?” “You haven’t got any water have you?” turns out the AC condenser had come adrift yesterday and munched his radiator. His sat phone didn’t work for some reason and he resorted to getting water out of the Roper River, despite the warnings from the local Aborigines that there was a big croc in there. He made it to the next small town and had a new radiator fitted this morning. Unfortunately they hadn’t fitted the bottom hose properly and it had come off, emptying the coolant... “You would have thought they’d be more careful” I offered, “He had some kid under there doing it, mechanic was too fucking fat to get under there” Hilux dude said, obviously not impressed. Anyway, we got fluid back in the cooling system and all seemed to be ok. Fella was from Blackpool in the UK, so we had a bit to chat about. I filled up his empty water bottles, and we went out seperate ways. Several other cars drove passed, no one else stopped.
Roper Bar, apparently used to be a secret place amongst retired police. For holidaying and of course, fishing. I planned to stop here and top off the fuel, as I knew the fuel at Lorella Springs (where we were heading) was $3/litre. Well maybe it should have stayed a secret because it seems there isn’t enough business coming here now...
I see a lot of complaining about prices for remote towns/areas/station stays, etc. However, it seems there are lots of places up here that used to be open to people visiting that aren’t anymore, either like this place, or stations that have given up on tourists and gone back to just doing cattle or whatever. So before you complain just think, would you rather have this, and what it costs, or nothing at all?
Ah well, nothing for it but to push on. Down through Limmen National Park. Not a bad drive, the road winds past plenty of nice spots, albeit under overcast skies.
A rare treat for lunch that day. (Sir) Les at the stock camp makes fresh bread (and breakfast ‘Johny Cakes’) everyday, so we grabbed one on our way out.
We get to the turn off.
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park is a huge 4,000-square kilometres (one-million acre) Outback Australia cattle station surrounded by the Limmen National Park, Aboriginal land, and many kilometres of pristine Northern Territory Gulf of Carpentaria coastline, rivers and waterways.
Slicker than I expected, but still pretty laid back. $20 per person, per day includes everything you want to do. Every track, every camp spot, free use of kayaks and tinnys around the property. And there is a lot to do. At over a million acres, of proper NT wilderness there are tracks and bush camps for days. That night we just stayed at the main campground and had dinner at the bar.
After consulting with the locals that morning, we had a rough itinerary. You have to sign out and then back in again so they know if to come looking for you, but that’s basically it. No nannying, no what is your experience level, no looking at your vehicle. You sign your life away and you are responsible for yourself, brilliant. No track on the property is off limits (although you are advised which are boggy, rough, etc). You can ‘no impact’ camp anywhere. Light a fire, fish the rivers. So it’s basically a national park without any of the restrictions, and hopefully too far from anywhere to keep the feral bogan count in check.
I was keen to get out to the coast, just to have been to the Gulf of Carpenteria.
Brolgas (below). Remote travel turns you into a ‘birdo’ - fact.
There are places you could get bogged on the station if you really put you mind to it... However there isn’t really any challenging driving after an average wet season like the one just passed.
The coast itself is nothing special here.
So we backtracked a short way to a good spot for a bush camp we had seen.
A small amount of green foliage on the fire helps keep the flies down.
I set up a lazy man’s fishing rig, with some bait in the river (you could easily fish halfway up the bank here, Salty Croc territory), I hooked a couple of big fish, but my lightweight gear, bought for fishing back around Port Adelaide was no match for these monsters, after much heaving and carry on, eventually they would just break the line. A bad workman always blames his tools....
Good camp? Good camp.
Next day and I just missed the best of the sunrise. Phone camera did one of those things where it decided not to work and I had the long lens on the actual camera, anyway, you get the idea.
Flies were almost ‘WA level’ this morning, so I stitched on the OzTent front room, as we were planning to stay another night.
Leaving the camp set up, we pushed out for a bit more exploring this morning.
Heading out the Rosie River Camp, the first camp Rhett (the station owner) had opened up when he first started taking tourists 20years ago. On the backs of the Rosie River, considerably bigger than the Wuraliwuntya Creek we were camped on.
Having reached Rosie Camp we took a little used side track, to check out a few billabongs. Worth it.
The remnants of a recent bushfire meant we had to do a little trail clearing.
We followed the quad bike trails that the staff ride out as far as possible, but this was end game for us.
Edible samphire (below), tastes mostly of the sea.
They say 4x4’s can’t get to the coast out here, because of the sand flats. Looks similar country to some blokes who once tried it.
Next day. We called up the homestead on the sat phone, to let them know we would be out another night. We were getting a bit low for on tucker, especially easy stuff to eat that didn’t need much prep.
So, when the going gets tough. The tough get baking.
Butter - some, maybe 125g
Sugar - some, maybe 250g (I just guessed the amounts in reality)
Eggs - two
Plain flour - approx one cup (or one plastic wine glass in this case)
Baking powder - one teaspoon (or omit this if you have self raising flour)
Tin of mangoes (or whatever you have to hand)
Vanilla or vanilla essence (I had a pod of vanilla, as one does, but didn’t want to give it up because I’m a tight arse) or whatever extra flavouring you have that might work
Cream (mash) together butter and sugar (food handling gloves are useful), add eggs, mash more. Add dry ingredients, combine. Add juice from mango tin and anything else left, till you have ‘dropping consistency’ (take a spoonful of mixture, does it lazily drop off the spoon once inverted? If not add either more flour or more liquid till it does), taste the mixture, add more sugar if required. Pour into tin, cover with tinned mango slices, and bake in camp oven, till done. Start slowly and build up, checking every twenty minutes by sticking a clean knife into the centre, till it comes back out clean. Ours too about an hour.
Something close to this recipe works for any basic cake or pudding. Just do it, the more you do it, the better a feel you get for it.
We packed up river camp, and wound back south, following different tracks than we did to get out here.
First to Monument Rock.
View from the top.
We checked out the ‘recommended sites’ for this time of year, not so far from the homestead. Us and plenty of others.
Ah well, ‘tis the nature of the beast. We camped here that night.
A couple pulled in for a quick fish. They were 6 weeks into their 6 month ‘half lap’ of Australia. Most people seem to do a half lap or full lap, whereas we’ve just gone where we wanted to. I generally prefer the inland stuff to the coast anyway, if only because it’s less busy.
Rolling back into the homestead the next morning, we grabbed 20L of fuel to be on the safe side. Settled up, and hit the road.