16-17 July: Crossing into the Northern Territory

Author: Mrs A

Monday location: from Adels Grove to Camooweal via Riverleigh Fossil Fields

We left Adels Grove and drove an hour south heading to the world heritage-listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields, 25 million year old remnants of a multitude of creatures which used to live here in days gone by. In contrast to Boodjamulla National Park it was pretty quiet with only a couple of other vehicles there.Just one small part of the 40km square area is open to visitors, but it offers a fabulous window to some of Australia’s evolution. Harking back to times when this dry dusty area was instead rich rainforest peppered with spring-fed lakes and pools – now limestone beds packed full of fossilised bones.The national park seems to be in cahoots with Adels Grove, with a lot of encouragement for visitors to do a paid trip with a tour guide. We tried to get on a tour but none were running, so we did a self-guided visit. There was very limited information provided on boards, and may fossils with no details beside them. You had to use a lot of imagination to understand what you’re looking at, and a lot of Googling later on when we finally got enough phone signal to connect to internet.

Giant birds, turtles, bats, several species of marsupial lions and giant crocodiles all resided here, evidence all seen in the limestone. It was a beautiful location, so peaceful, with fabulous views across the landscape.

After an hour or so we jumped back in the car and headed off on our way. The road was dusty gravel, corrugations in some parts with a couple of picturesque river crossings. It’s just amazing driving through this dry landscape and suddenly being plunged into the land of palms, pandannas, and rushing clear water, along with the prolific birdlife that comes along with it. Only a few metres beyond the water and you’re back in the dust again, hardly able to believe what you’ve just travelled through.It was a slow old journey which led eventually to tarmac, and then another 200km to our destination for the night, Camooweal. There we did a massive clean, inside and out, to try and rid ourselves of some of the red dust we had accumulated over the past few days.

Tuesday – Location: from Camooweal to Banka Banka Station, Northern Territory

In a week’s time Mark is to fly back to the UK from Darwin, so it was time to start making more of a move towards the north. Today was a big day of driving with few breaks. We literally made three turns all day – the first out of the campsite and on the Barclay Highway, then the second off the Barclay and onto the Stuart Highway, heading north, and then finally into Banka Banka Station, where we parked up with the multitude of other caravans for the night.It is amazing how many caravans are on the road – it is not even school holidays any more, and everywhere is heaving. Stations like this are literally raking the money in. We park in rows in a paddock, each van having access to water, a shower and toilet block, and a country music singer around the campfire at night. All this for $20 a van – that’ll be around $1,500 dollars per night earned…not bad for a patch of dirt.

The station is mostly about cattle farming, but they also have a couple of camels and a number of vocal donkeys on site.

We chatted a bit to our neighbours, who are mostly heading to the same locations as us, or have recently left. It doesn’t take much to realise it’s going to remain busy in these parts for some time to come!

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