THE SAVANNAH WAY IS the corridor between Arnhem Land and Qld'sCape York Peninsula, a window to the wilderness bordering the Gulfof Carpentaria. Usually renowned for its undulating passagelittered with corrugations, tyre-shredding stones, creek crossingsand hidden bulldust holes, something in the wind is signalling achange.
According to Rhett Walker of Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, theNathan River Road section of the Savannah Way between Roper Bar andBorroloola in the NT is primed for a bumper season. The roads haveopened a month early (April 1), freshly graded and sheeted withgravel. It could be related to the recent declaration of the LimmenNational Park, originally proposed in 1991, but left undeclared dueto large iron-ore deposits and Native Title claims.
FREE TO ROAM
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park is owned by the Walker family. Thepark itself is a former one-million-acre cattle station of largelyunspoilt wilderness facing the Limmen Bight, dotted withbillabongs, thermal springs, waterfalls and bird-filledwetlands.
Eighty natural springs have been identified on the property, andthey are claimed to flow through the subterranean waterways fromNew Guinea to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This makes Lorella the bestand safest place to swim on the Gulf, with a range of croc-free hotand cold springs, waterfalls, deep plunge pools and everything inbetween. If that sounds inviting, it's because it is.
The property is bordered by the national park on two sides, theLimmen Bight of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Aboriginal land. Thesedays, the property is used primarily as a tourism venture, with thebulk of inward traffic coming through the main gates, plus anairstrip for fly-in visitors. There is still about 1000 head ofcattle behind wire, with a periodic muster to round up the wildclean skins that wander onto the property.
The Walker family has cut 1000km of 4WD tracks to help adventurersexplore the attractions on offer. Visitors can drive the BillabongLoop around Rosie Creek, paddle the canoe at Flying Fox Swamp,climb the Tawallah range for spectacular views, and walk a few feetoff the beach to scoop up massive mud crabs or haul in a sizeablebarramundi.
The main campground facilities are representative of an outbackstation, with donkey-style wood-fired showers and flushing toilets.Unlike some other destinations, the showers have a good flow of hotwater - a welcome surprise. Wood is supplied, so you can have yourown private campfire or use the main fire near the bar.
Lorella Springs has been developed to encourage communalactivities, where everyone can gather and share their experiences,with the licensed bar acting as an unofficial meeting point eachevening. A communal fire supplies a bed of hot coals for cookingand it's only a short hop to the thermal 'magic spring', said tohave healing qualities.
The main campground has been extended in 2012, adding an additional50km of cleared tracks. Also new is a second 'clothing optional'thermal spring, with a temperature between 42-45°C, 400m from thehomestead.
TO THE OCEAN
If the beach is more to your liking, make your way down towardsRosie Fishing Camp on Rosie Creek. It's a rough 4WD track throughspectacular scenery to the coast, passing through open-plainsavannah, lakes, billabongs and salt flats. It generally takesabout four-hours to travel the 86km to Rosie camp, with a further13km to the coast, so you really need a minimum of an overnightstay.
The fishing camp is accessible by camper trailers or offroad vans,but facilities are limited to drop toilets and a boat ramp. Andthere is no water, so bring plenty or source it from one of themany freshwater billabongs and boil before use.
Rosie's turning tide produces some of the best fishing in Australia- barramundi, queenfish, shark, barracuda and all the other typicalNT species. Campers are restricted to a catch-and-release system,keeping only what can be eaten on the day. Hunting is prohibited onthe property and the firing mechanism of all firearms must be leftin the homestead safe.
There are saltwater crocs in the ocean and some of the wetlands andrivers around the park, so care is required.
Rhett spends considerable time checking all the waterholes beforeopening after the wet season and a full briefing is provided onarrival. In addition to the crocs, wildlife includes buffalo, wildpigs, brumbies, kangaroos, wallabies, goannas and seemingly endlessvarieties of birds.
Outside the property, the sandstone spires of the twin Lost Citieswithin the Limmen NP make an excellent daytrip. The Lost City is aday use-only facility, requiring a key from the ranger. Your bestbet is to organise access in advance because the office is notpermanently manned. You can also organise a helicopter fly-overfrom the operators at Cape Crawford.
We certainly enjoyed our all-too-brief visit to Lorella Springs.Here's hoping our next visit will be long enough to fullyappreciate the wilderness experience, and the rugged surroundingsthat make this part of the world so special remain unchanged.
Lorella Wilderness Park can be contacted on (08) 8975 9917 or http://www.lorellasprings/
Camping costs $15 per person, per night. Luxury African-stylesafari tents, with a queen and single beds, cost $120 pernight.
Park amenities include meals, bar, gas barbecues, camp kitchen andfuel.
April-June is when the waterfalls are at their best, June-August isthe main tourist season, and September and after is best forfishing.
Source: Camper Trailer Australia #53