Everyone's Going to Lawn Hill! Why?
Okay so we had 10 days break in Karumba, quite possibly 3-4 days too long. Its not that Karumba isn't a nice place, its that unless you're a fisho or over 65 and on your annual 3 month migration north there ain't that much there to get excited over. Seen as though we don't fit either of those categories and within 4 days we'd seen all the place had to offer we got bored quickly. On a positive note we had a whole camp kitchen to ourselves and fresh food was only a short walk away so we filled our bellies with fresh fruit and vegetables and sampled the local bakery and cafe regularly. With our stores refilled and our bodies rested we got the bloody hell out of there and headed into a glorious howling wind on a treeless plane towards Normanton, jeez that was a fun day. 40kms of flat road, stiff wind and no shelter and by 5pm we set up camp at Walkers creek. Done! At least we were out in the bush again.
The next day we continued our roll along a smooth bitumen surface to Normanton. Since we were in Karumba everyone we had spoken to had kept telling us that they were either going to or been to Lawn Hill and you have to go. Not just one or two people....everybody!! So we thought let's go have a look its only 400kms away we'd be there in no time. So only an overnighter in Normanton, enough time to see Krys the giant croc, enjoy a cold beer at the purple pub and view its old historic buildings. We'd set up in the caravan park earlier in the day in a nice secluded spot and by the time we got back we were surrounded by screaming kids and families, it was as if we'd traded the nursing home of Karumba for the bloody day care centre in Normanton. The next morning we couldn't have got out of there any quicker if we had of tried, 8am earliest exit yet. Topped up our food and a quick coffee and cream donut from the bakery and out we rolled.
We wound up that afternoon camped by the Little Bynoe river and even had a concrete pad to set up our kitchen on, the simple things can really brighten your day. Across the river from where we camped was camp 119. Which if anyone knows their Australian history this is the furtherest north the ill fated Burke and Wills expedition camped. How they got this far is beyond my mind. Being a huge history fan I indulged myself a little and spent a couple of hours sitting amongst the old blaze trees and tried to comprehend how they must of felt being in this pretty harsh area. We spent the afternoon watching crocs in the river and all the amazing bird life around us. The next morning neither of us felt like riding anywhere so we spent another 2 days relaxing in the shade by the water. A couple of caravaners come in to set up camp however the 2 crazy looking hippies and the angry dog managed to scare them away, so we had the place to ourselves.
The next 2 days were spent plugging away on the bicycles on a continually flat road with lots of corrugations. You build up a rhythm on these sorts of roads, you're constantly pedalling as there are no hills to roll down and rest the legs and always scanning the road for a potential smooth spot to rest from the corrugations. We had worked it out that until we had just about got to Leichhardt Falls we had been on totally flat terrain for approximately 500kms, not a hill in sight, not even a small rise. Its on these sorts of days of riding that the body goes into auto pilot and just pedals and the mind can become the biggest issue for the day. The mental drain is harder to deal with than the physical. Leichhardt Falls was an oasis for us as the last 10kms was into that every present tough headwind and bucket loads of bull-dust, little did we know it was just a taster for things to come. An old fella came over and insisted we needed a hand-line to catch some tucker and some onions to keep us fit and healthy, so we accepted graciously.
After 2 nights rinsing ourselves off in the falls and covered in fine beach sand we pointed the bikes headlong into that glorious wind and punished ourselves into it for two days. It was a slow two days I might add. No traffic, plenty of flies and that ever present face smashing wind to stop you dead in your tracks if you stopped pedalling, did I mention bull-dust? It was shin deep in some spots. We had a fella pull up beside us on the first day and to his mind we were "bloody mad bastards" then proceeded to offer us a beer a 10am as he was on his sixth. Thanks mate but no thanks. Anyway when we finally reached the end of the road he reappears hands us two beers and gave us some advice on where to camp. So we sat under a lonely tree by the side of the road enjoying an icy cold beverage, we must of looked a sight judging by the looks we got from some of the car drivers. It was indeed a tough two days where we managed to ride just short of 60kms. The next day we covered the 60kms into Gregory downs by 3pm, amazing what the wind behind you can do as well as a smooth bitumen road.
We contemplated the free camp on the Gregory River however the prospect of a hot shower and flushing toilet made the pub campground an alluring choice. Shell managed a hot shower, mine on the other hand was as cold as ice, the hot water system had run out of gas so cold showers for everyone till tomorrow. Didn't matter at least I couldn't taste dust anymore, well for at least the time I was in the shower, because once you stepped outside the howling wind blew a shit load more of it into your face. Now from here its only 85kms to Lawn Hill. Being a national park we couldn't camp there as we have Jazz and dogs aren't welcome in national parks so we decided to camped at Adels Grove. One problem though, the day we got to Gregory, Adels Grove burnt down. Well not the whole place only the reception, restaurant/pub and main facilities so they were closed. Bloody hell after everything we'd heard up till now about Lawn Hill from nearly every person we met and being so close we may have to abandon that bit. We decided coffee and a muffin was in store for us to think it over. We went across the road to Murrays place. A little coffee shop, actually the only coffee shop in Gregory.
Turns out Murray makes a pretty mean coffee and an awesome muffin, plus he gave us some valuable info about Adels Grove. As long as we were self sufficient they would let us camp there. Turns out not only was Murray's place a top cafe it also doubled as the local shop, so stocked up on some more food, shared some nice conversations with Murray about life out here and suggested to him that we might come back in 12 months and take him up on a small job that he didn't know he offered us. Left the next morning excited about being in Lawn Hill in two days. The first 20kms was a great bitumen road, then it turned real pear shaped. The actual road wasn't fit to drive a tractor on let alone a car or a push bike. Most of the traffic was driving down the sides of the road as it was smoother. We tried that although the boggy bull-dust puts a pretty quick end to that. Wound up by 5 pm camped in a little pull over bay where the ground was so hard I couldn't get a tent peg in the ground. Luckily for us we found a couple of old grader cutting edges in the bush and tied the tent down with them, and guess what? The wind was a still blowing!
Up early and the chill factor was kicking in and neither of us really wanted to get on our bikes. We knew there was at least 50kms of shitty road between us and the amazing, mystical Lawn Hill that everyone had spoken of. The last 15kms into that awesome headwind that seemed only to be getting stronger. By 5pm we had made it to the temporary reception they had set up. When this very excited individual came up to me with so much joy and happiness that he blurted out "I seen you today" big goofy smile and all. I looked at him at first wanted to choke the happiness out of him until he was limp on the floor like I felt, however all I could muster was "that's nice mate"whilst leaning my head on a post trying to stop myself from collapsing into a heap on the ground. He looked confused as to why I wasn't as excited as him. Thankfully he crept away slowly. Our plan was to stay only 2 nights and ride the 10kms to the gorge the next day. However neither of us liked our bikes anymore and the thought of riding them anywhere was horrifying. So stay three rest tomorrow.
Rest day was well worth it. Adels Grove is gorgeous. Swam in the creek walked a few short bush-walks and generally relaxed. A couple camped next to us enquired if we were thinking of riding out to the gorge. We said yes tomorrow. She was horrified and proceeded to tell us how bad the road was and that her and her husband would gladly give us a lift to save us the pain of having to ride there. Awesome! Lift accepted. Next morning we jumped in with Peter and Nez for the 10min drive. Boy were we glad we did. We both agree that up till this point the road from Gregory to Lawn Hill is the worst road we have encountered for many reasons. Although what we do find is at the end of every crappy days riding is a little gem or an oasis waiting for us and Lawn Hill is no exception.
Stunning is the only word I can find. We walked the upper gorge to warm up and the scenery was mind blowing. Then we sauntered down hired a canoe and hit the water. We felt like the only people on the planet. It was very serene and picturesque floating along the gorge. Had a swim in the falls at the end of the paddle in water that was so clear you could see the base of the lilies growing up from the bottom of the river. It was as beautiful and amazing as everyone we had spoken to in the last month had said it was. So if you ever get a chance come and have a look at this place, it is well worth the trip. Even my sore bum cheeks can agree with that. From here we head north towards Doomadgee and then the border to who knows what. Looking forward to whatever comes our way. Firstly we need to hitch a ride home from the gorge and after a brief walk a couple of workers from Adels Grove picked us up and took us back to camp. Geez "what else is possible" and so much gratitude for all the generous souls who have assisted us along the way, it makes this experience all the more beautiful. A tough 20 days however totally worth it and wouldn't swap the experience for anything.