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Across the Savannah Way

We now wanted to head across to the northern territory and eventually Darwin. This is another very long trip through some remote country. Having stocked up at Mareeba we then drove for five days, mostly along a route called the Savannah Way, more about which here. Much of the track is dirt and cuts across country just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The scenery doesn’t change hugely, but it does change quite a bit. There patches of tarmac which are always blissful, never underestimate the smooth quiet pleasure that a well sealed road brings. This is dry Savannah country; high grass and low scrub mostly. Although there are rocky sections and many small lakes dotted about, mostly man made to keep the cattle alive. Cattle wander about in small groups everywhere; you have to keep an eye on them. If mother cow is on one side of the track, and baby cow is on the other, there’s a high chance baby cow will run out in front of the car as you approach to get to mother. The result could be a liberal application of minced beef across the bonnet, and a wrecked car. We also saw many dead big black feral pigs on the road, and even a dead Brumby, the local name for wild horses.

There were also several rivers to cross, and crocodile warnings at most of them. Having your car stall mid river is one thing, but having to climb out and look at the engine is seriously risky in croc territory. The car was fine and there were no dramas at all. We perfected a technique whereby CM drives, and I perch outside on the running board holding onto the roof rack. That way I can see down into the water and navigate the way around deep sections and big rocks. Luckily none of the crossings were deep, but they add a modicum of excitement to the proceedings.

The approach to the Robinson river crossing.

Several hundred kilometres from anywhere we left Queensland and entered the North Territory. A big sign appeared beside the track telling us so. The ‘territory’ as its known is very sparsely populated, and of course very hot and humid. It has just a wet season and a dry season. Now is the dry season, but there is still a lot of water to be seen. Strangely it occupies a time zone half an hour different to Queensland. So we now only eight and a half hours ahead of GMT instead of nine. Here is a picture of the sign:

Entering the Territory.

You are so far from anywhere out here that broken down cars are often abandoned, and then mysteriously stripped some time later, by who knows who. Getting towed home is not an option, I live in dread of this scenario. Here is one of many such cars we came across:

Abandoned car

We stayed overnight in small one street towns, some being nicer than others. Places such as Georgetown and Burketown, settlements named after early pioneers. One night we were in an Aboriginal town called Borroloola, the campsite had a family of local indigenous people camping at it, just near us. No car or transport, just a couple of small tents and a clutch of young children. They were a friendly bunch and the kids talkative and inquisitive. The oldest, about 8, said he liked drinking Rum, he was quite hard to understand though as English was probably not his first language. I have to say that the indigenous kids seem to have a carefree and very happy time of it, plenty of time to just roam and play all.

Interestingly when I told our 8 year old I came from England he said that was a place ‘above Darwin, where blackfellas and whitefellas sit together’. True of course, but how sad that at his young age his perception is obviously that the two communities live separate lives where he lives. We went to the local shop just before leaving town; it was well stocked and very busy. No shortage of money in these areas as I mentioned before. I noticed the hardware store come petrol station had a bargain bucket of cheap Araldite epoxy resin on the counter. Not because the locals are heavily into gluing things together though. We’ve seen the same tubes, emptied and left with the empty beer cans beside creeks and roads in other towns. The hardware store (run by white folk) must know it’s used for sniffing and not gluing in the main, I suppose a sale is a sale at the end of the day. In some areas they only sell specially produced petrol called Opal Fuel. This is de-aromatised petrol that cannot be sniffed for a quick high, it has no vapours apparently. We’ve not had to use that where we have been though.

Anyway we drove on, and on to the main north south highway and a place called Daly Waters, more on which will follow. The Savannah Way is a long one, and one of the more minor routes across country. A bit more interesting and a bit more challenging the the main tourist route.

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