Travel: Lorella Springs, NT
The Paveys check out the NT's Lorella Springs Wilderness Park on the edge of the Limmen Bight.
THE SAVANNAH WAY IS the corridor between Arnhem Land and Qld's
Cape York Peninsula, a window to the wilderness bordering the Gulf
of Carpentaria. Usually renowned for its undulating passage
littered with corrugations, tyre-shredding stones, creek crossings
and hidden bulldust holes, something in the wind is signalling a
According to Rhett Walker of Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, the Nathan River Road section of the Savannah Way between Roper Bar and Borroloola in the NT is primed for a bumper season. The roads have opened a month early (April 1), freshly graded and sheeted with gravel. It could be related to the recent declaration of the Limmen National Park, originally proposed in 1991, but left undeclared due to large iron-ore deposits and Native Title claims.
FREE TO ROAM
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park is owned by the Walker family. The park itself is a former one-million-acre cattle station of largely unspoilt wilderness facing the Limmen Bight, dotted with billabongs, thermal springs, waterfalls and bird-filled wetlands.
Eighty natural springs have been identified on the property, and they are claimed to flow through the subterranean waterways from New Guinea to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This makes Lorella the best and safest place to swim on the Gulf, with a range of croc-free hot and cold springs, waterfalls, deep plunge pools and everything in between. If that sounds inviting, it's because it is.
The property is bordered by the national park on two sides, the Limmen Bight of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Aboriginal land. These days, the property is used primarily as a tourism venture, with the bulk of inward traffic coming through the main gates, plus an airstrip for fly-in visitors. There is still about 1000 head of cattle behind wire, with a periodic muster to round up the wild clean skins that wander onto the property.
The Walker family has cut 1000km of 4WD tracks to help adventurers explore the attractions on offer. Visitors can drive the Billabong Loop around Rosie Creek, paddle the canoe at Flying Fox Swamp, climb the Tawallah range for spectacular views, and walk a few feet off the beach to scoop up massive mud crabs or haul in a sizeable barramundi.
The main campground facilities are representative of an outback station, with donkey-style wood-fired showers and flushing toilets. Unlike some other destinations, the showers have a good flow of hot water - a welcome surprise. Wood is supplied, so you can have your own private campfire or use the main fire near the bar.
Lorella Springs has been developed to encourage communal activities, where everyone can gather and share their experiences, with the licensed bar acting as an unofficial meeting point each evening. A communal fire supplies a bed of hot coals for cooking and it's only a short hop to the thermal 'magic spring', said to have healing qualities.
The main campground has been extended in 2012, adding an additional 50km of cleared tracks. Also new is a second 'clothing optional' thermal spring, with a temperature between 42-45°C, 400m from the homestead.
TO THE OCEAN
If the beach is more to your liking, make your way down towards Rosie Fishing Camp on Rosie Creek. It's a rough 4WD track through spectacular scenery to the coast, passing through open-plain savannah, lakes, billabongs and salt flats. It generally takes about four-hours to travel the 86km to Rosie camp, with a further 13km to the coast, so you really need a minimum of an overnight stay.
The fishing camp is accessible by camper trailers or offroad vans, but facilities are limited to drop toilets and a boat ramp. And there is no water, so bring plenty or source it from one of the many 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 typical NT species. Campers are restricted to a catch-and-release system, keeping only what can be eaten on the day. Hunting is prohibited on the property and the firing mechanism of all firearms must be left in the homestead safe.
There are saltwater crocs in the ocean and some of the wetlands and rivers around the park, so care is required.
Rhett spends considerable time checking all the waterholes before opening after the wet season and a full briefing is provided on arrival. In addition to the crocs, wildlife includes buffalo, wild pigs, brumbies, kangaroos, wallabies, goannas and seemingly endless varieties of birds.
Outside the property, the sandstone spires of the twin Lost Cities within the Limmen NP make an excellent daytrip. The Lost City is a day use-only facility, requiring a key from the ranger. Your best bet is to organise access in advance because the office is not permanently manned. You can also organise a helicopter fly-over from 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 fully appreciate the wilderness experience, and the rugged surroundings that 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-style safari tents, with a queen and single beds, cost $120 per night.
Park amenities include meals, bar, gas barbecues, camp kitchen and fuel.
April-June is when the waterfalls are at their best, June-August is the main tourist season, and September and after is best for fishing.
Source: Camper Trailer Australia #53