Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
1 July 2013

Katherine to Carpentaria Highway - Bullwaddy Rest Area
location map
The morning was surprisingly cool with a gusting wind. We packed up and connected the Pathfinder and caravan without haste then drove into Katherine where we parked in the caravan area near the supermarket and did some last minute shopping. The overflow caravan parking area we stopped in was empty when we arrived but forty-five minutes later, when we left, there were twelve other caravans parked there and more were arriving as we drove out. Availability of caravan parking near the shopping arcade and supermarket appears to pay off in increased business for Katherine, although we couldn't help but wonder if this large number of caravans had been expected.

Leaving Katherine we headed south on the Stuart Highway; as usual, this was a good, two-lane bitumen road. Traffic was light overall with some heavier patches. There was a strong and gusting south-easterly head wind moving the caravan around uncomfortably and increasing fuel consumption. The outside temperature remained cool; reaching only 22°C by 10:30.

The road passed through the typical Top End woodland dominated by eucalyptus with some pandanus; this seems to be an unbroken band of vegetation.

There was surprisingly little road-kill for such a busy road. We passed a few wallabies, then came upon five or six pig carcasses scattered along the road as if a group of pigs had been hit by a road train. This was one of the few occasions on which kites had gathered to feed; most other roadkill lacked birds; indeed several roadkill carcasses could be recognised as birds.

I had not intended to refuel at Mataranka but the head wind had increased fuel consumption so much that taking on more fuel was prudent. The gusting wind had been gradually easing after we left Katherine and fuel consumption had improved a little but we filled up all the same. As it turned out, this additional fuel wasn't needed because the wind continued to decrease in strength.

After surprising ourselves a few days ago when we counted the number of caravans travelling from Katherine to Darwin we counted caravans heading towards Katherine from the south. In four hours we counted 108 vans; a similar number to yesterday and confirming the subjective conclusion there are "lots" of caravans around in the Katherine area.

We re-fuelled again at Hi-Way Inn near Daly Water on the corner of the Carpentaria Highway. This was our planned refuelling point before turning onto the Carpentaria Highway bound for Borraloola via refuelling at Cape Crawford (which is nowhere near the sea, despite the name), but we had heard mixed reports about the Carpentaria Highway and turning back to the Stuart Highway remained an option if the Carpentaria Highway was as badly damaged as some reports indicated.

In the event, on this first day travelling 90 kilometres along the highway to a selected rest area, we found adverse reports unfounded. The Carpentaria Highway left the Stuart Highway at the Hi-Way Inn as a two-lane road for eight kilometres then became a single bitumen lane with a two-metre wide graded verge on each side. The single lane was reasonable bitumen on which 80 kilometres an hour towing the caravan was comfortable. The road was in long, straight stretches which went up and down over the gentle hills (there had been very little civil engineering work involved in building this road). The verges narrowed a bit to be about one metre wide and the road surface occasionally deteriorated a little for a few kilometres; overall, the road could be compared with a better standard Queensland developmental road of the last ten years.

The long, straight stretches of road meant oncoming traffic could be seen in the distance. We met one caravan and two 4WD vehicles and passed without difficulty, slowing and pulling over onto the verges as needed. In fact, the last vehicle was met on one of the duplicated sections. There were two short two-lane sections (3.5 and 3.7 kilometres respectively) and a long two-lane section of road starting 17.6 kilometres before the Bullwaddy rest area we had chosen for the night.

Much of the land along the road is cattle properties but we saw few signs of cattle. There were no grids and much of the road was unfenced. Vegetation was tropical woodland with some variation in species depending on conditions. Passing Amungee Mungee station we saw a few head of cattle grazing; they were outside one of the few fences we saw all day. Nearby, on the other side of the road, were extensive cattle loading ramps and pens with signs of heavy recent activity and numerous vehicle tracks out to the bitumen. The recent wet season did not deliver as much rain as usual and de-stocking cattle properties has been in progress for some time as feed disappears.

1 July - page 2
Bullwaddy One of several Bullwaddy trees at the entrance to the overnight area. This is one of two water tanks.
The approaches to Bullwaddy rest area were well-signed with standard white on blue signage. We turned off along the access track and entered a large open area which could hold ten caravans easily and many more if required. There was a water tank, about a quarter full, and a picnic shelter. We drove around a couple of times looking for a place to stop; out of habit we carefully positioned the caravan so the door side would be shaded then found the wind was too cold to comfortably sit outside and it didn't matter how the van was positioned in relation to the sun. If we had wanted to sit outside this afternoon the weather was such that a sunny spot out of the wind would be preferable to shade. By sunset there were five caravans in the rest area.

GPS Position
Access track to Bullwaddy rest area: - 16° 27' 03.1"S, 134° 11' 46.6"E
daily map