Monday, June 28, 2010


24-25 June 2010


We finally made it here. It was on our wish list during our Kimberley trip two years ago but a bit out of the way then and not do able because of timeframes for the trip.

We planned to do this before going to Darwin but for reasons mentioned in the blog earlier during these travels it did not eventuate at that time. Well we are finally here and on our way through the park. We have notified our daughter in the event that we are not back by the 29th to raise an alarm. The information about the park describes this as a remote 4WD experience requiring you to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. As we drove into the park we met two cars coming out so maybe not as remote as all that. The most striking feature driving in was the abundance of termite mounds – like headstones in cemetery.

It was not far from the campsite to Bullita – about 16 kilometres along a gravel road. The vegetation is not as green as in Kakadu and the creek crossings were generally dry with some water pools on either side of the crossing in places.

Our first stop was Bullita. Bullita is the sector in Gregory National Park’s that is a reminder of the pastoral past of the area. Current homestead was built in 1960 and replaced a couple of iron igloos as it was an outstation of Humbert River Station. It became a separate station under Harry and Lyn Berlowitz.

It was a hard life for those living here. The last owners of the Bullita Station lived here for 10 years – till just after the 1977 floods. The incredible harrowing experience during the flood by Mrs Berlowitz is recorded in a detailed letter she had written. It all started with the flooding from the river behind the homestead.

Today our focus was on Bullita Stock Route – what is considered to be a difficult one way track that explores the north west section of the park. It follows a section of the old stock route to Wyndham.

The reason it is one way is because of the East Baines crossing and the jump up at Spring Creek Yard can only be negotiated in one direction.

We set out with some trepidation. It was a slow trip. Sometimes the speedo was not registering the speed of travel. The fastest we reached was 25 km per hour and that would have been for a 100 metres may be a little further at times. The first crossing of the East Baines River we approached with caution. Markers marked the route along the crossing with the instruction to keep to the left of them.

There were several bends to negotiate. As we approached the last bend lo and behold a crocodile was swimming in front of us. It totally caught us by surprise and momentarily we lost concentration on following the markers – but all was well. I couldn’t refocus the camera quickly enough before it went under water. It is a shadow in the photo below.

The track was ever changing.

We zig zagged between trees, termite mounds, termite mounds and trees whilst dodging overhanging branches and bounced and rocked from side to side as the Oka made its way over the uneven surface. At times there was a hump or a one sided drop as well that added another dimension to all the obstacles listed above.

The path was exceptionally cleared marked with cairns in a few places. The main markers were blue triangles and blue boab tree markers noting distance traveled.

Hubby tells me it was the roughest 4WD he has done in 40 years. Negotiating down the limestone steps after the insignificant jump up required precision wheel placement. You could see a lot of scrapes on the limestone where precision was lacking by some drivers.

After the limestone steps there was a section with interesting limestone outcrops to the side.

The first ten kilometers were probably the most challenging overall except for specific short sections later on.

Someone told us the track was boring. Well we found it very interesting. It was constantly changing either due to the track surface or vegetation.

We stopped for lunch at the beautiful Spring Creek Camping Ground.

Don’t the termite mounds look like fingers of a hand!

The campground is located at the scenic Spring Creek.

Then after lunch we were on our way again. The termite mounds are actually quite high. To provide a perception of their height I got hubby to stand next to one.

The stock men labelled some of the boabs with hotel names. These labelled boabs were meeting places for the stockmen. This one was the Oriental Hotel.

It was huge in size. You could not have missed it on route.

We had been hitting low level branches on and off for most of the trip – it was just not possible to dodge them all. I had quite a bit of debris come flying in through my window. Hubby decided to check what was happening on top – well . . .. quite a few branches, twigs and leaves had found a home up there.

Then across Spring Creek we had to go.

There was some water to the side of the crossing and a little at the beginning of the crossing.

Then another dry river crossing with a steep entry.

This was followed with lots of bouncing and rolling from side to side.

Then just over a kilometer of stoney track

and then half decent track

past a limestone escarpment.

Then suddenly we said ‘holey dooley’ as we looked down at the beginnng of the East Baines River Crossing. All I can say is thank goodness it had no water in it ie across the crossing. We looked down the 45 degree angle and could see a bend and wandered what else was in store.

I made my way down via a side track that was more stepped as there was no way you could walk down the drop that was the track.

Hubby slowly made his way down.

Then made his way through a reasonably sharp turn before reaching the river bed.

I got back in before negotiating the river bed. I didn’t see the markers in the river but apparently he did. There were many twist and turns through the river bed.

Finally the end was in sight as we started to go back up.

We left the track to do the side trip to Drovers Rest. This boab was just so ‘elegant and graceful’.

Another check to see that all is right with the vehicle before continuing on.

This section was somewhat greener and the track was slightly better in that you travel slightly faster ie 20-25 km per hour for short distances.

The landscape changed as hills started to appear rising out of the flat surroundings.

On Day 1 we made it to Drover’s Rest campsite above the the Barrabarrac Creek. About 40km along the stock route. It took us five hours with a lunch stop to get here.

The creek here is lined with pandanus palms.  No swimming again - not safe.

The campsite has boabs amongst the trees that lit up beautifully before sunset.

They provided a lovely backdrop as I quilted before dinner.

Day 2

The second day on the Bullita stock Route was a lot easier and allowed for faster travel. It took 2 hours and 25 minutes to do 40 kilometres of the track.

We saw monitor tracks over our car tracks as we drove back to rejoin the stock route.

The boabs are just so unique. There were even some boab nuts on the ground. A pity that most of them were cracked.

Termite mounds dominate the landscape throughout the track.

Once back on the stock route the track deteriorated and was much slower for part of the way.

Then a little oasis to the side. A short track to the side led to a very scenic section of the Barrabarrac Creek.

On the other side it was slightly hilly.

The next five kilometers involved a number of climbing sections with many turns. In one place hubby engaged first low to keep it slow and steady over a steep rocky climb.

Throughout the track we have intermittently seen kapok yellow flowers. The tree looks dead except for the flowers. Once it flowers it will grow its fruit/seeds and then the leaves will return. The aborigines use the kapok tree as an indicator. When the leaves drop off and it flowers it indicates that the fresh water crocodile is laying its eggs. When the flowers die and the seed sets the fresh water crocodile eggs are hatching.

The knock them down rain has hit this side of the park as the grasses are lying doubled over. In most of the park they were still standing erect.

The last 12 kilometres to the main road from Timber Creek to Bullita was relatively easy going except for some washouts.

A combi by the side of the road had obviously come in the wrong way and was going nowhere. It has been here for a while.

Once we turned into the main road to Bullita we considered this part of the track finished. It was a great experience and the first bit of really serious four wheel driving we had done in the OKa. It felt good and boosted our confidence for the future.

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