Rivers of lava and lots of driving

27 June 2012

It’s 7 in the morning and we are on the road early, it was a night to forget last night.  We are in the middle of a few long days of driving, as we came south from Cape York we intended to cut across on some back roads to Normanton, and the gulf.  All those back roads were closed, we checked in at the nearby roadhouses to be told, you could or couldn’t get through, the final decision was made after talking to the Fairview homestead and getting a no.  So we found ourselves on the long way around, frustratingly having to go back to within spitting distance of the east coast before we could strike west across the Savanah Way.  We knew we were in for a few long days of driving as we had a date in Darwin, over 2,000km away, to meet up with Alice and Tom, we wanted to get there a bit early as it was also a good chance to get some jobs done and a check up for Landy before heading off into the Kimberlys and more rough stuff.
The good thing about this diversion, and a good break from the driving was that we would be going right past the Undarra shield volcano, a big bubbling cauldron in its time, overflowing with runny lava that flowed 160km towards the gulf, the flows cooled on the surface and stayed molten below.  After everything cooled down large tunnels called lava tubes were left behind.  Guided tours take you through some of these amazing tunnels, on occasion big enough to drive a double decker bus through.  It was unreal to think that 190,000 years ago red hot lava was flowing down these tubes, the roof surface looked like melted candle wax and the sides had flow marks where you could see the level of the molten river as if flowed through its “pipe”.  Now much of these long tubes have fallen in, but there are still sections open, frequented by marvelling tourists and lived in by lots of bats.
At the end of an exciting morning seeing the lava tubes it was time for us to resume our drive onwards, it was late in the day when we passed through Croyden, the town before Normanton, and the pub beckoned!  A couple of cool schooners were gratefully supped, and I had a great few minutes skyping N and N and the boys.
As we left town the sun was setting and we decided to find a spot off the road to stay for the night, it was hard to see what was around us as we drove into the setting sun, but then we found a small track leading off the road and across to the other side of the Gulflander railway, we knew the train only went once a week.    It was a magic spot and the rails looked as though they went forever into the setting sun.  After dinner we looked over the maps for the next few days and got excited about what was to come at Kakadu and Litchfield with A&T.  A couple of road trains rumbbled past and we enjoyed getting into bed after a long day and promptly fell asleep.
Pop, pop, bang, Lisa stirred, the bangs got louder, bang bang, we woke from a deep sleep, confused but definitely hearing gunfire getting louder, getting closer!  Our sleepy brains trying to work out what was going on, adrenaline pumping through our bodies and trying to kickstart us from our slumber.  Shit, are they shooting at us? No, that doesn’t make sense, bang bang, shit that is close, right, up, we are getting out of here.  Hang on, they prob can’t see us, quick lights on inside Landy.  Then some headlights come on, they swing towards us, then straighten and head off, past us and away.  By now the roof is down and we are both in the front, hearts pumping, scared by the thought of a wayward shot coming our way.  We started Landy and put the lights on, sat and took in what had just happened, it was one minute to midnight.  Now we were awake!  Just a couple of guys on their way home from the pub, but it did make us feel a bit vulnerable and wary, and it took a fair while to get back to sleep!


Undarra Lava Tube


Into the darkness, trying to imagine a running flow of lava


Our road and rail side camp spot, rails of light forever

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