Road covered today.After having slept beautifully, I get up at 5 a.m. and finish eating and packing up before dawn. As the sun rises, I add a bit more oil to the engine (just in case) and take off. Ahead lie Queensland and the mining town of Mount Isa.
SA and WA." title="A typical rest area in Queensland. Feel free to compare with SA and WA.">A typical rest area in Queensland. Feel free to compare with SA and WA.The desert changes back to savannah gradually. Around noon I stop at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse to refuel. A lot of cars and people around, most of them with campervans or boats in tow. Unsurprisingly so: the Gulf is famous for its fishing. I leave the fishermen and anglers behind and drive further. The scenery becomes wilder and wilder. It's hard to explain why, but there's just something particularly remote and otherworldly about this area; the further you travel north, the more noticeable it becomes.
The local savannah.Suddenly the highway shrinks and turns into a one-lane road. A few kilometres like this, then two lanes again… and then back to one. It repeats many times. Not enough funds to build proper roads? I violate the speed limit and run 120 along these one-lane patches: I don't want a dusty rendez-vous with an approaching vehicle. I keep overtaking the boats in tow: apparently, it's hot season for fishing in the Gulf.
the day after." title="An unexpected narrow patch on the road. The picture is taken the day after.">An unexpected narrow patch on the road. The picture is taken the day after.The more I drive further north, the more I feel the odd, prehistoric vibe of the region. It's almost like an enormous beast can crawl out of the savannah any minute; or, maybe, not even a beast, but some nightmarish creature brought to life by H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King. Not to attack or to eat: just to look at me for a while and crawl away slowly, still not quite convinced in my existence. The narrow, one-lane road somehow adds to the feel, too: as if civilization itself is too cautious to invade these lands and tries to occupy as less space as possible here with its black bitumen arteries.
The prehistoric growth.This haunted, otherworldly feel dissolves somewhat as I approach the Gulf. I pass Normanton, which also looks a bit wild, and drive further towards Karumba. Savannah is replaced by vast sandy plains, which look like they are flooded quite frequently. A giant, dark-grey bird with a red spot on its head looks at my car without blinking, standing on one foot in a ditch full of water.
The Gulf of Carpentaria.I pass the same prehistoric savannah on my way back to Normanton; there I stop and try to refuel my Tucson at a supposedly automatic service station: it's basically a one lonely bowser with no people or instructions around. It looks old and abandoned, but it does smell of fresh fuel. Weird. I fail to make it work, then shrug and hop back into the car, to drive further south and to make a turn east a bit later. No detours or distractions all the way to the Pacific now. The speed limit changes back to 110 km/h unexpectedly. Wonderful.
Today's camp.After a quick dinner I visit the ablution block to take a shower. It's already dark, and fat frogs are already all around it, waiting for mosquitoes patiently under the yellow lights. One can only hope that poisonous snakes don't wait for these frogs somewhere nearby. There are indeed some mozzies around, but not too many, and it's not too humid either. Good.
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