With over 100-kilometres of dirt road and a few hours of driving ahead us (or more given my inclination to stop and take photos), we left Miyumba Bush Campground in the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park and headed south toward Camooweal from where we planned to head west and cross the border into the Northern Territory.
Only a few hundred metres from the campground we crossed the fast-flowing Gregory River as it gushed across the same causeway we had swam at over the past couple of days.
Then came the O’Shannassy, which proved a river crossing not to get too excited about with hardly a flow of water to speak about, let alone wet our tyres.
It was another warm, sunny day as we made our way along a road that required careful negotiation as we slowly picked our way from left to right to avoid corrugations. The only well graded section was nearer to ‘Riversleigh Station’ some 33-kilometres on.
Aside from the corrugations it was an incredible landscape we drove through.
We were surrounded by an enormous backdrop of rocky ridges, spinifex and the contrasting white of small ghost gums standing tall against the brilliant blue of the sky, a landscape typical of the outback country we had been travelling through of late.
Amusing road signs, the odd road train, dust, rocks, dips, flood ways, wildlife and cattle (that didn’t always react predictably) kept us amused and on our toes for most of the journey and after what seemed a long and dusty trek, we finally arrived at the Gregory Downs and Mt Isa/Camooweal T-junction.
We were now travelling in the Traditional Lands of the Waanyi Aboriginal People.
Turning right at the junction toward Camooweal the road continued on through more inhospitable country until we came to a fork in the road where a sealed road continued on to Mt Isa…
… and a 4WD stock track veered off in the direction of Camooweal.
This decision wasn’t hard and opting for gravel in preference to black tar, we pointed Harry Hilux in the direction of Camooweal for another exciting off-road experience!
Bumping along the windy stock track we pushed our way beyond bulldust and over rocky sections as we crossed through the land of surrounding stations.
Occasionally a road sign warned of flood ways, bad bends and there were even a couple of speed limit signs on a track that was barely used!
We didn’t pass a moving vehicle for 90-kilometres until we reached the highway… only the remnants of some, and one that obviously hadn’t obeyed the road signs!
After a very interesting trip we finally joined the Barkly Highway for our final stretch into Camooweal.
Just a mere 186-kilometres and 5-hours of travelling through river crossings, across huge wide open spaces and dodging the odd cow or two we finally arrived on the outskirts of our next destination!
This small country town is known as the gateway to the Northern Territory and Queensland, is home to a rich history and rural lifestyle, 2 lakes (Lake Francis and Lake Canella that attract birdwatchers from all over the world) and is the longest main street in the world, a street that joins this tiny hamlet with the city of Mt Isa 188-kilometres down the road.
Just a short distance of 24-kilometres south of Camooweal are the ‘Camooweal Caves’ (also known as ‘Nowranie Caves and Waterhole’), so before airing up our tyres we couldn’t resist a quick trip to see what all the fuss was about! We had heard so much about this site from couple back at Miyumba Bush Campground who were also travelling from Tasmania!
On the outskirts of Camooweal, we turned south at the Post Office Hotel onto Urandangi Road then following signage for some distance we turned left into more cattle country bumping over another rough, rocky, corrugated track and through a couple of steep dry creek crossings before finally coming to rest at the almost dry, stagnant Nowranie Waterhole and picnic area.
This semi-arid section of the Barkly Tablelands was again characterised by open eucalypt woodland, spinifex, turpentine wattle shrubland and Mitchell grass plains.
We had been driving since early morning and it was well passed our lunch break when we pulled into the waterhole but any thoughts of a quick bite to eat and cuppa were soon dashed by flies and wandering cattle. Instead we decided to wait until we reached our camp for the night and headed off in the direction of Nowranie Caves, a further 2-kilometres down the track.
This area is littered with rare sinkholes and caves, dating back to the Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago when water percolated through layers of soluble dolomite creating caverns linked by vertical shafts up to 75-metres deep.
As these caves and sinkholes are very unstable, entry is prohibited to the general public so we were only able to catch a slight glimpse of how deep they really are by following a short walk from the car park to the Great Nowranie Cave.
These sinkholes are only accessible for those experienced in serious caving and they must gain special permission…
… and for a couple of fellow Tasmanian cavers visiting at the same time as us, I should imagine there was a whole new world beneath this Camooweal region to discover!
Camooweal was certainly a busy little town when we arrived.
With not a lot of attractions apart from the caves and the Drovers Camp Museum (dedicated to the early settler’s who drove cattle through to the NT) this tiny place appeared a very popular stopover on the highway for cattle trucks, grey nomads and those making their way east to west or vice versa…
… and being so busy meant we didn’t have a lot of options to set up camp when we arrived late afternoon.
There were a couple of parks in town but all full to brimming with Grey Nomads as was the free camping area a short way out of town on the banks of Lake Francis… so our only option was the ‘Puma Roadhouse’.
After what seemed many days in the Outback we finally had a nice patch of lawn to park up on. We also had the convenience of fresh running water (although still very calcium tainted), showers, washing facilities (to wash our larger items – towels, bedding), mobile coverage and free WIFI (as much as we could use), and we soon had all our gadgets cranked up downloading and uploading our many photos and catching up on blog updates.
Next day leaving Camooweal behind we crosssed the Georgina River.
Our drive was a mere 12-kilometres to the Queensland/ Northern Territory border, followed by a 256-kilometre drive to Barkly Homestead Roadhouse. From there is it was a much longer drive to 3-Ways and on to Mataranka where we planned to spend a few days relaxing at one of our favourite campspots… Jalmurark Campground – 12-Mile Yards in the Elsey National Park on the Roper River.
The Northern Territory covers nearly one sixth of Australia’s landmass with millions of kilometres of stark emptiness, which to most people is the typical red dirt image of the outback.
Come with us as we explore a little more of our own backyard.
Visit many awe-inspiring places, learn about our Australian heritage and Indigenous culture along the way and help us make more lasting memories as we venture further into Australia’s Northern Territory and ‘Top End’!