30 June & 1 July: Goodbye east coast – hello to the Savannah Way

Author: Mr A

Location: Palm Cove and Cairns, then Gunnawarra, Queensland

Saturday: Our last few days in Cairns have been all about getting prepared to leave behind the relative civilisation of the east coast and prepare to drive across the top of Australia. Today was no exception, with a power shop at what will be our last big supermarket for a few weeks, and maybe up to a month, depending which way we head.

We also managed to squeeze in what will undoubtably be our last fine dining experience for some time. Our fellow Zone owners Wendy and Frank had driven over to see us, and swap tall tales of our respective trips. We went back to the same place in Palm Cove (Choc Dee Thai) we ate at a couple of nights ago, but it was so good compared to the “modern Australian” predictable menus of the rest of the restaurant strip there.

Sunday: It was pack up and leave time, but not before we crammed in one last market, all of 100 metres walk away.Mrs A managed to score some lovely earrings and a necklace made by three local jewellers, and two dresses beautifully modelled here.It was with a good degree of excitement that we hitched up and said goodbye to the Coral Sea as the next ocean we are likely to see is the Timor Sea, up in the Gulf.

We plan to follow what’s called the “Savannah Way”, a well driven route by grey nomads and other travellers heading across to the west coast. At 3,500km (2,175 miles) the Savannah Way is a decently long road, even by Australian standards. From Cairns the road takes no prisoners from the get go, heading up a windy, steep route to the Atherton Tablelands. Then it’s a haul across to Normanton, a small town up near the Gulf, then across to Katherine in the Northern Territory and then finally to Broome.

Broome didn’t really wow us last year, so we think we will turn south for Alice Springs before then, and head out to the West MacDonnell Range, then head back over to the east coast, emerging around Brisbane at the end of August.

Well that’s the plan anyway. As they say, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and in the Australian outback there are plenty of those. They can take many forms; a stray rock that comes through the windscreen or pierces the side of your tyre, corrugations that shake bits off you and your things, and a pretty harsh climate that in winter will see huge variations in daily temperatures. We are expecting to modify the plan as the trip unfolds.

We called back in to our favourite store on the tablelands, the Humpy, for some last minute fruit, vegetables and other local treats, before deciding to press on to a place called Pinnarendi Station. This is another working farm that is making some money from the passing caravans by offering sites with power, water and even meals. Good on them. It’s great to see so many people having a go at something new, seeing an opportunity and investing in some basic facilities for travellers.

There are also locally made jams and other products on offer here – I bought myself some home made peanut butter ice cream for dessert.

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