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August 8, 2001

Overland Australia - Update 14

2001 August 8, Wednesday. Einsleigh River.

Victims of the Gulf Developmental Highway: Rough Riders & Rancid Road kill

The corrugations petered out beneath us, ending with the abrupt G-d-d-d-d-d of a cattle grid. Today’s first ten clicks marked the last of the station roads we can expect to traverse for nearly two hundred kilometres. We had left the dustbowl behind, and before us lay the Gulf Developmental Road. A sealed road - asphalt, blacktop, tarmac, bitumen, - complete with a painted white line down the centre. Incredible! After only fifteen days out from Starke River, it’s hard to believe that this intimidating reminder of civilisation is a normal road, and what we had all been used to in our ‘former lives’.
The first thing we noticed was the putrescent odour of decaying flesh. A quick glance at our surrounds revealed a feral red fox, and an eastern grey kangaroo, both of which had been partially consumed by scavenging birds. This was to be just the tip of the iceberg of what we were to experience in the day ahead. Each kilometre travelled would disclose, on average, two or three road-kill; including an assortment of possums, toads, wild dogs, grey kangaroos, and wallabies; all at various stages of dismemberment achieved by their hungry fellow wildlife.


The next change noticed was the appearance of printed road signs, containing relevant, accurate, information on the road in front of us, and obviously commissioned by a road management council. We had grown accustomed to the provincial efforts of people like Bill the Gold miner - typically scrawled in black texta-pen on a rusty hubcap nailed to a tree, and never actually encompassing every possible option at a crossroads.


Our only settlement of the day, Mount Surprise (approximate population 60) was a surprise only in that there was no mountain there at all, only a hillock visible in the distance. However, any disappointment the absence of the mountain may have evoked, was entirely transcended by the fact that we did not have to cycle up it.
My first flat tyre during the trip so far was one of three tubes I destroyed today because of thorns. Our progress was hampered by cow heads, also known as goat heads, and three corner jacks. When replacing the first tyre, I counted more than a dozen of these thorns piercing it clean through. I must curb my tendency to ride off the side of the road while we are passing through this part of the country, as we all have developed a few habits which we will need to alter for the next few days.
We reached the Einsleigh River travelling at more than double our usual speed. We had known we were going to miss the Jowalbinna - Maytown ‘Road’ as soon as it was put a safe distance behind us, and the vast plains, reminiscent of an African landscape, spread out before us. Although the day was a complete success - our camp here being as nice as we could wish for, and a change being as good as a holiday - we’ve rather had our noses-full of road kill already. I want our slow, laborious progress and incessant bull-dust back! Roll on Tanami Track!


Environmental Studies
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Posted on August 8, 2001 4:29 PM