Cape York via Simpson Desert 25 June 2015 – Day 24

Thursday, Jun 25, 2015 at 18:42

Peter Beard (WA)

Circle complete - back at Karumba after nearly two weeks and looking forward to again watching the sunset from the Sunset Tavern. Well not a circle, triangle really. Across to Cairns up to the Cape and back down to here. A trip well worth doing.

An early start from Musgrave, on the road by 8:00 heading south to see if Dixie Road is open across the Mitchell River. If not, we will have driven nearly 200km and will have to turn back to Musgrave to go the long way round - across to Pormpuraaw and down through Kowanyama. One of the people that works at Musgrave told Pete she was confident it would be OK, apparently they have constructed a concrete ford across the Mitchell and it is an easy crossing if there’s not too much water flowing. Here’s hoping.

Dixie Road starts at Artemis, about 20 km south of Musgrave. The track is well graded if a bit narrow, but with alarmingly steep shoulders on each side. A road crew is working about 10km in, grader, water trucks, gravel trucks - the usual hazards. They are the only humans we see all morning - the land is alive with kangaroos bouncing through the scrub, and great flocks of pink and grey galahs seem to erupt out the ground around every bend. The track goes through a series of creek crossings, dropping suddenly down and equally suddenly up - like a roller coaster on gravel.

At Eight Mile Creek the track enters the black soil plains. Flat, black and dark brown land for miles. Great furrows in the track demonstrate this soil turns to mud at a whiff of rain; fortunately there are no clouds today. The track follows Eight Mile Creek for many kilometres, sometimes along the bed of the creek itself, at other times just skimming through the swamplands either side.

Finally the track turns south, crossing first the Alice River - bone dry now, but the width of the crossing tells us this will be impassable when flowing - then down to the Mitchell River. It is nearly 11:30 before we see another car. Three actually, heading north, two with trailers. They look fine and dry and aren’t waving frantically. Always a good sign, looks like the river crossing is open.

The Mitchell River is flowing swiftly over the clearly marked causeway, about ankle deep in the middle section. We worked that out by eye, a crocodile warning sign eliminating any desire to walk it to check. The crossing is very good, rubber matting adds to the grip, white posts keep you on track. Ali is very glad. For some reason she has developed a nervous tic at water crossings.

Not far south of the river crossing Dixie Road emerges onto the Burke Development Road near Dunbar Station. The trek to Karumba was the same as the trek to Chillagoe only in reverse - main sights being cows, termite mounds and lots and lots of talcum powder-fine dust.

Close to Karumba, Ali spotted an eagle’s nest, the "baby" looking big enough to take on most prey. The mother flew off as we stopped the car, she looked big enough to take on an average human.

Time now to turn our thoughts to the Savannah Way and the trip west through the Northern Territory. The next part of the adventure begins.


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