Top End Expedition Part 8 final

With much sadness it was all too soon time to depart the splendors of Litchfield National Park and start our roundabout journey home. After leaving the park by the southern entrance along the Reynolds 4wd Track we soon had our first stop of the day at  Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs. This is a top spot to soak up the hot natural spring water and ease away all the aches and pains of the many weeks on the road. It was one of the hottest springs we had been in although there are cooler pools downstream if you find it too hot. There is also an excellent camping area here if wish to stay a while.

Moving on we had planned on visiting Butterfly Gorge Conservation Park just up the road from the hot springs but this was closed at the time of our visit, maybe next time. Back out on the Stuart Highway we head south aiming for another night’s camp at Mataranka Homestead with the Mataranka Thermal Pools on its doorstep, we enjoyed it so much the first time around we just had to come back. After picking up supplies at Katherine for the next week on the way through we arrived at Mataranka just in time to have a quick dip in the pools before having a night off cooking and grabbing dinner at the onsite bistro. No live music this time but we would definitely recommend Mataranka Homestead and  thermal pools to anyone heading through this way, it is well worth a stop off.

mataranka homestead
A replica of the Mataranka Hometead used in the movie “We of the Never Never” is located near the camping area.

Next morning it was up and out of camp early heading further south before turning east for Limmen National Park and towards the gulf. We had several options for the homeward stretch deciding to explore Limmen National Park spending a couple nights here.  limmenFollowing a diversion out to Roper Bar and the old police station ruins we had a delightful nights camp beside the Roper River at Tomato Island.

roper bar ruins 1
What remains of the historic police station
roper bar ruins 2
The old ‘Lock Up’

On the way through Limmen we went searching for ancient Aboriginal petroglyphs which we eventually found,

explored beautiful Lomarieum Lagoon and the nearby St Vidgeon ruins,

loreum lagoon
The beautiful Lomarieum Lagoon
vidgeon ruins
The ruins of St Vidgeon

visited  the informative display at the Nathan River Ranger Station and the now all but dry Butterfly Falls which must be a sight during the wet season.

butterfly gorge
The all but dry Butterfly Falls

Oh and did we mention a visit to the southern lost city camping right next to these amazing rock formations.

There is also a Western Lost City accessible only to 4wd’s via a locked gate, permit required with a key available from the Nathan a River Ranger Station. Unfortunately we did not have time to explore this area so it is on the list for next time we are passing this way. It was also within Limmen we were held up for a short time awaiting one of the ‘locals’ to clear the road at a causeway.

limmen gator
One of the ‘locals’ crossing the road

Limmen National Park may not be as well known or heard of as Kakadu or Litchfield but its raw beauty, stunning scenery and ‘friendly’ wildlife make it a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Leaving Limmen we were soon out on the Carpentaria Highway (Savannah Way) pushing further east towards gulf country. A stop off at Caranbirini Conservation Reserve and a wander around its amazing rock formations is a humbling experience.

Exploring the wonders of Caranbirini Conservation Reserve

We then headed for our last night in the Northern Territory at the McArthur River Caravan Park in Borroloola. If you get to Borroloola make sure you call into the old Police Station Museum in town. It is aid to be the oldest surviving example of a remote outpost station in the territory and is well worth a look.

Next morning it was on the road early with a lot of ground to cover as we headed for the Queensland border. The Savannah Way is a fantastic drive and we enjoyed every second of it.

wearyan river crossing
Crossing the Wearyan River along the Savannah Way

By early afternoon we had hit the border and it was time for a late lunch at the iconic Hells Gate Roadhouse just over 50km east of the border.

leaving nt
Goodbye Northern Territory, hello Queensland

Our initial plan had been to strike south off the Savannah Way and into Kingfisher Camp for the night which we had been told was a beautiful spot, however we were advised at Hells Gate that Kingfisher was closed indefinitely so a new plan was hatched which turned out that we would witness a phenomenon that we had never seen or head of before. The plan was to venture further east along the Savannah Way bunking down at the Doomadgee Roadhouse campground for the night before dropping into Adel’s Grove for several nights to explore Lawn Hill National Park. It was here at Doomadgee the next morning that we were treated to a rare spectacular cloud formation known as ‘morning glory’. This cloud formation resembles a roll as far as you can see and the Gulf of Carpentaria is the only known place in Australia that this can be observed. We felt very privileged that morning to witness such a rare and amazing phenomena.

morning glory
The cloud formation known as the ‘morning glory’, a sight to behold

Turning off the Savannah Way just shy of Burketown we headed south then struck west for the final run into Adel’s Grove. Camping is available here in the privately run Adel’s Grove which has numerous camping spots, many of which are well shaded beside the river, which is safe for swimming and one which we spend much time in during our stay here. There is also camping available at Lawn Hill and although there is not much shade here it too is right beside the river. Back at Adel’s there is also an onsite bistro just make sure you book a dinner spot if you feel like a night off cooking.

adeles grove camp
Our serene, shady campsite at Adel’s Grove

Next morning we decided to set off early to walk the gorge at Lawn Hill before the heat of the day set in, and wasn’t this a great plan. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and the views from the top of the cliffs looking back down into the gorge were simply stunning. After spending the rest of the day and most of the afternoon floating in the river back at Adel’s we decided the next morning to hire a canoe and paddle up both gorges at Lawn Hill, you need to carry your canoe a short distance between the gorges but it is well worth the effort, and even though we had hiked the first gorge the morning before paddling up both gorges is the only way to fully appreciate what this place has to offer. If Lawn Hill National Park was not on your bucket list before then it should be now.

After spending a wonderful couple days in Lawn Hill it was time to head south and stat our long journey home. It was along the road about 50km from Adel’s Grove we came upon a broken down car with a young guy waving us down. He had broken down the day before and unable to get his car going again had spent the night sleeping in the car until someone (us) had come along. We offered to take him back to Adel’s Grove where he could organise a tow for his vehicle for which he was very grateful. Even though it had put us behind time it felt good to have helped out a fellow traveler and we are always  hopeful that the same would be afforded to us if the situation arose.

Heading back south again we had a quick stop at the Riversleigh Fossil Site. A stroll around this important historical site reveals fossils dating back some 25 million years and it contains some of the most significant fossils in the world. Make sure this site is on your itinerary when heading through this area.

Leaving Riversleigh we headed down to the Barkly Highway and back to Mount Isa for the night. Due to continuing wet weather in outback Queensland the final part of our trip had to be abandoned and we decided after a night at a caravan park in Mount Isa to start heading south pronto as roads were increasingly being closed due to rising floodwaters. Our night in Mount Isa turned out to be very damp as storms moved through in the early evening with torrential rain following that lasted all night and persisted whilst we packed up camp the next morning. Just out of Mount Isa we had a stop to make at a site we had seen on our way to the territory but didn’t have time to explore. Mary Kathleen is located about 60km east of Mount Isa just off the highway. During the 1950s uranium was discovered here and an architect built town to service the mine was soon developed. Initially closing in 1961 the mine and town had a second lease on life in 1974 with its population peaking at 1200. Finally closing for good the mine and town were dismantled in 1984. Today exploring this area is a surreal and somewhat eerie experience with all of the roadways and concrete pads still in existence and even the tennis courts and swimming pool sites still recognizable.

mary kathleen
The eerie remains of a once thriving mining town
mary kathleen mine
Taking in views over the abandoned mine site

There is an excellent display including old photographs of what what the town once looked like in its heyday at the museum in Cloncurry, well worth checking out.

After another very soggy night at a caravan park in Winton we continued hightailing it south calling into the information centre in Blackall to see if the highway further south was still open. With sketchy information available we decided to risk it and continue south making up a plan as we went. At Tambo we finally received some good news that the Landsborough Highway had just reopened but the Matilda Highway between Augathella and Charleville remained closed. We decided to make a run for it and head via  the Landborough while we still could then cut back across to Charleville for the night. Arriving late we opted for a dry nights accommodation in a pub for the night. The next morning it seemed the whole town was on edge and a wander down to the river on the edge of the cbd explained the uneasiness as the usual serene Warrego River became a raging torrent. It was a sight to behold.

After a couple of nights in Charleville we scooted south hoping that we would dodge the rising floodwaters, it was like a race to the finish line. After visiting the Alan Tannock Weir at Cunnamulla and seeing it in full flight we were back in NSW.

alan tannock weir cunnumulla
The Alan Tannock Weir at Cunnamulla in full flight
robbers tree cunnumulla
The famous ‘Robbers Tree’ at Cunnumulla

Stopping overnight in Bourke and with a few days up our sleeve after our rather quick trip south a new plan was hatched. Not far from home was a spot we had never been to but had always planned on getting to, so now was our prime opportunity. Picking up some supplies in Dubbo we pointed the cruiser ever closer to home but now a couple days at Wellington Caves was on the agenda. There are several caves here to explore as well as an old Phosphate Mine that was in operation during WWI. Luck was definitely on our side here as we were able  to explore the lower section of one of the caves which was then closed after our tour due to rising water levels of the water table. The Phosphate Mine had also been closed due to water issues prior to our visit with our group the first to go through after reopening that day.

After a couple of nights here it was all too soon time to head a short distance home and back to reality. But not for long as our planning for our next adventures never end.

almost home
Nearly home after 8 weeks on the road

This was one of our most epic adventures and one that will stay with us  for a long time to come. Eight weeks on the road is no small undertaking and with months of planning planning prior to hitting the road we have seen some of the best of what northern Australia has to offer. to say we were impressed would be an understatement and we have only scratched the surface. We hope we have inspired you to head out and explore what this country has to offer. Even if it is just a short sojourn for the weekend we know you will not be disappointed and once that travel bug has bitten, you like us will be forever planning that next big adventure, near or far.

Here is just a taste of some of the animals and wildlife we encountered on this leg of our journey.


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