Expanding into New Territory
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
After a nice break at Adels Grove and a glorious day in Lawn Hill National Park it was time for us to move on. It’s always very hard to continue moving forward to another destination when the one you’re in is so enriching to the soul. However move on we must, as bush camping is much cheaper than van parks. So our camp was packed up with the usual efficiency we have established and we thanked our awesome neighbours for the last 3 nights, Peter and Nez for the support and lift into Lawn Hill and off we rode. Both of us weren’t too enthused by the prospects of going back the 14kms on the road we struggled in on 3 days previous however it was only 14kms not 60 so that gave us a little reassurance. Plenty of traffic was heading into Adels and all waved or shouted out encouragement, which seems to have become part of our day. We got to Lawn Hill Station and stopped by the creek for breakfast and a breather and refilled all our water bottles. We were now on station roads not a main road so the traffic was non existent for the rest of the day only one car passed us. Still tough going and we stopped just passed a hill with a giant cross and what appeared to be a monument on top. If we had any energy we would’ve walked up to have a look. Energy was what we lacked so pitch tent eat food and collapse into bed was all the energy either of us had. Sometimes its like that and the best thing to do is honour what your body and mind is signalling to you. Sleep came fast and easy.
A good night sleep can make all the difference and both of us were up early and full of promise and excited by what the day may bring and boy it did deliver. Soon after breaking camp we came across a plastic box in the bush and Shell’s first call was free food. Upon closer inspection we found some dishwashing liquid and rubbish bags, cool we needed both. A little further down the road we stopped to look at a potential water point to top up our supplies when a car pulled up for a chat, Fiona and Warwick the silver gypsy’s (not to be confused with grey nomads), an awesome lively couple and a great conversation ensued. We rode on from there forgetting to get water and both feeling all the better for the chat. Come lunch time we came across a windmill and small dam so we stopped and investigated it and found plenty of good tasting water, so top up time in the shade. We heard a car pull up near our bikes that were left on the roadside. We generally don’t like to enter through gates onto station property without permission, the exception being established roads of course, so the bikes are always parked up. A couple pulled up thinking we were having a swim in the dam and wanted to check we were ok. Turns out that Brett & Toni seen us the day we left Adels and figured we must’ve been doing it tough. After a brief chat Toni asks what we eat. We sort of explained that we eat anything she then proceeds to hand us a cryovac bag of chicken, steak and vegetables a couple of bread rolls and a bag of mixed nuts. Which was truly awesome as we were about to eat muesli for lunch. Not that theres anything wrong with muesli. We informed them that they had made our day as it was our wedding anniversary. After they left we found a spot away from the dusty cattle and wind and made chicken burgers for lunch. Filled with food and much gratitude we rode on effortlessly and chatted to a few more drivers before setting up camp by a creek and cooking an amazing meal that was gifted to us. It was one of those days that don’t happen often however when they do they fill us with gratitude and joy that beautiful people are everywhere and quite often in the most unexpected places they pop up.
The next day wasn’t as blissful as the previous on many counts. We had a disagreement first thing that blew up big time and neither of us wanted to be near each other, which can be tough when we were riding together out here. Not much traffic stopped to distract us so on we rode in silence and into a very stiff breeze. A very quiet lunch stop and then another quiet afternoon stop and on we rode. We were hoping to get to the Nicholson River near Doomadgee that day and that didn’t happen so we camped by the side of the road with bugger all shade on a wide open plain. About as desolate as our company that day. Not a pleasant day although by the end we had worked out the issue. Like most couples it can be a simple miscommunication and six hours pedalling can seem like an eternity until its nutted out at the end of the long day. Next morning we up early to beat the wind, that didn’t happen it new what we were up to so it arrived bang on time, when we left camp. Still we were in Doomadgee by 11am and stocking up on fresh food and more supplies from the supermarket. Without doubt the best stocked small town supermarket we had encountered since Atherton. We went a little over the top and struggled to fit it on the bikes, so we kicked Jazz out of her trailer to run threw it all in there and rode off to the Bakery for a coffee and a sweet/savoury treat. We chatted to the locals and really had a great time in town, very welcoming and accomodating although we got the impression that they didn’t want us to hang around. I kept suggesting that we were going to backtrack a few kms to camp by the river and everyone said nah mate Darwin is the other way. So we backtracked anyway and set up camp by the river. I think every vehicle in town did a drive by to check us out, even a forklift drove down and pretended to pick something up. Not to be deterred we stayed repacked our supplies did some repairs and ate all that fresh fruit and veggie we just bought. We stayed two nights by the river and caught a couple of red claw in our little trap, only to throw them back without getting a single photo, and relaxed and mapped out our next direction. A new Territory was calling us and it was less than 150kms away, first though we had to go through Hells Gate and that sounded ominous.
The plan was to get up early ride into Doomadgee top up our fuel get breakfast and be gone before 9am. Great plan! Until we got into Doomadgee to find the whole place closed and almost deserted due to sorry business (funeral). Roadhouse would open at 10:30 briefly so we waited and chatted to a couple of grey nomads from WA. Well that was after we rode to the bakery and supermarket to see if they were open. Nope they weren’t either, so by 11am we were leaving town. My map showed bitumen for about 5kms from town then back to dirt so it came as a pleasant surprise to find we were on bitumen all day except for about the last 3kms. We camped by Walford creek and for the first time on this journey the flies had got to us and we pulled out the fly nets to preserve a little of our sanity. An old fella pulled up for a chat and asked for a lighter so I gave him one of our spare ones. Later that night a couple of cars dragged a dead horse off the road out to the bush behind us which was interesting to watch, we didn’t know what they were dragging at the time however they were polite enough to apologise for the nuisance and wished us a good night. The next morning I wandered down and confirmed what it was they dragged in. You do see some weird shit out here.
Expecting it to be dirt for the rest of the ride to Hells Gate we left early only to find more bitumen, awesome and what dirt we did encounter was flat, smooth and enjoyable to ride on. Pulled into the International arrivals hall at Hells Gate by 1pm. Oh how good it felt to pitch our tent on the soft green grass in the camping area and the long hot shower that was enjoyed by us both. Jazz was happy as well rolling around on the grass with that big doggy smile of hers. Lunch was had and a few cold drinks consumed, Hell isn’t such a bad place after all. We watched the afternoons procession of caravaners roll in and set up camp, which is an entertaining spectacle on its own. It takes us roughly 30mins to unpack our bikes, pitch a tent, set up our beds and light the stove for a cuppa. Now I would think that a caravan would be quicker, pull up, plug in your power and water open door sit down 10mins maybe. No not at all some of these guys were fluffing around for hours. One group took 30 mins just to figure out where to park then another 30 getting it level and by dark they were still messing around, it all looked like hard work. We were in bed and still they were messing around, we see this repeated daily wherever we camp near caravaners, so with that we have both vowed to NEVER own a caravan, too much work.
We spent 3 days in Hell and it was bloody glorious. A great little spot on a road to nowhere. The staff and owners were amazing to us we even managed to stay up till midnight one night with them chatting about life, which is pretty late for us now a days. We rode out to Dill Doll Rock one day for a look around and were gifted amazing views of the area and beyond. With the bikes all repaired and all our gear clean and tidy it was time to leave Hells Gate. We’d organised with them for one of our 10L water bladders to be dropped out to us in a couple of days time as we’d heard the road ahead was not so good. And we were also told if there was anything we needed just get a passing car to bring a message in and they would sort it out for us. How good is that? So we left at 10am and rode for 30mins before we stopped to drink our coffee and reflect on our time in Hell. Upon reflection we both agree that we can’t wait to come back to Hell as its a bloody top place no matter what your religion or ideology tells you, ain’t that the truth. Within 10mins another cyclist pulls up heading the other way. Brief chat and he confirmed what every other motorist had been telling us. The road is great until the border, then its tough going. And this was from a fella who had a quarter of what we were carrying. After an hours rest (not that we needed it) we rode on until 1:30 and stopped at a little billabong on Hann creek and set up camp. Another couple of campers rolled in and we shared stories before they offered to refill all our water bottles, we graciously accepted the kind offer. Which is something that before we set off on this little journey we would never accept help from others. We both felt we pretty much are ok and we don’t need help from anybody our mantra was “we got this”. However now whenever anybody asks if we need water or anything we straight up reply “yes please” and accept with grace and humility the kindness that is being offered. Its a very liberating process showing your vulnerability and accepting assistance from complete strangers and reinforces our belief that everybody has a good heart and good intentions its all the distractions of modernity that get in the way of it being on show. This in turn offers them the gift of giving and helps them feel good . It’s a beautiful process to be a part of and one that fills the heart.
We left early in the morning and we crossed the imaginary line that is the border by 11:30 or was it 11:00 because as I looked at my phone it changed time all by itself. Either way it was a weird experience riding over a cattle grid and going back in time, it shows me that time is purely a human construct and is a story we tell ourselves. We lunched early due to the morphing of time under the “Welcome to the Northern Territory” sign. And marvelled at the number of cars that pulled up and took a photo of it through the window. Only two groups out of about 6 got out and got their photo under the sign. We had coffee and cake and a little celebration for crossing the imaginary state line. A bloke asked us where we got the cake from and I told him from the bakery just down the road. He replied “I didn’t see the bakery” to which I said “It was in Doomadgee and I’m as surprised as you that it made it here without already being eaten”. I can assure you much laughter was had more than likely at his expense. All reports up till now had said once you cross the border the road turns to poo around the first bend, well that was about 100m and they weren’t bloody wrong. Reminded us both of the Peninsula Development Road only harder and much less traffic thankfully. We rode another 18kms before we gave up for the day and set up camp under a towering range, hidden amongst fallen boulders. As we were sitting there reflecting and recovering from the days ride I noticed that our fuel bottle for our stove was missing from the back of my bike. Shit! I screamed we are doomed was my instant response, how will we cook now? As I was about to ride off six road trains thundered through, still after the dust settled I unloaded my bike and went back up the road to try and find it. After 10kms and failing light I turned back dejected and with no fuel bottle. With all the road-trains passing through if it was on the road its buggered now. With that ride I came to realise we weren’t doomed, we are surrounded by firewood everywhere we go, so with a few adjustments we cook by campfire until we can order another one in Borroloola.
It was actually the first time we had lost anything in 95 days and looking along the side of this road plenty of others had lost lots more. The bits and pieces of cars, campers, caravans and even mobile phones told a tale of the harshness of this road and area that shouldn’t be tackled lightly. So a little lesson was learnt. Today we rode off knowing that we had a massive hill climb in front of us. We were excited as we hadn’t climbed any hills of significance since Herberton. Luckily for us the six road trains that had headed west last night had passed us fully loaded with cattle before we got to it, because the hill was a narrow one lane bitumen pass. Its a testament to our strength and fitness that we both managed to ride all the way to the top, no pushing bikes or helping each other, I even had the energy to run down the hill and pull little Tour de France bell ringing cheering of Shell as she ground her way up the hill, it was great fun and a worthy view from the top. Today was also the day our water was to be dropped off to us from the good folk of Hells Gate, I was indeed glad it hadn’t turned up before the hill as the extra 10kgs would have made it a little harder. Across the top of the range the road was still pretty ordinary and the long slow downhill was a let down as I was looking forward to flying down the other side. We stopped halfway down and watched three road trains have a union meeting in the middle of the road before a car pulled up and asked if we needed anything. Of course we do a little water and can you take this $20 and this list to Hells Gate and give it to them, they’ll know what to do. The lady read the note and noticed that we’d asked for two cherry ripe's and as luck would have it she had two on board would you like them. Hard to say no to that offer. Nice chat ensued and shared information on various locations worth seeing and where the best camp spots are and then off they drove. By late afternoon we were both done. We set up camp in a road side rest area on the Calvert range. Had to use rocks to hold the tent down as the ground was like concrete. By this time our water hadn’t showed up either so we were feeling pretty bummed out when a couple of blokes pulled in. Mark and Adrian from NSW offered us water and fruit and said that when they get to Hells Gate tomorrow they would ask what happened and sort it out for us. Relieved with that we went to bed until about 3am when the howling of dingoes circling the camp area woke us up. Jazz was not impressed so we let her into the tent and laid there listening to sorrowful howling of a wild dog and its pack in the distant. Bloody hell what else is possible on this adventure.