Drive the Sa­van­nah Way

Australian Geographic - - Your Society - sa­van­nah­way.com.au

ONLY IN AUS­TRALIA could you own a prop­erty for decades with­out real­is­ing it has a spec­tac­u­lar fea­ture like Cob­bold Gorge. De­spite his fam­ily liv­ing at Robin Hood Sta­tion, near For­sayth, far north Queens­land, from 1964, Si­mon Terry didn’t know of the gorge un­til 1994. “We first came up here in a friend’s old tin­nie. But they left, and we had no boat, so we used to come in a plas­tic cat­tle trough. They make a good boat,” Si­mon ex­plains, re­count­ing a story that typ­i­fies his out­back prac­ti­cal­ity and love of this mys­te­ri­ous coun­try. “It’s al­most still a fron­tier – there’s still stuff out here that white peo­ple haven’t walked over. There’s 80sq.km of sand­stone there. I’ve only been up a hand­ful of gorges – it just takes so long to dis­cover it all.”

Driv­ing the Sa­van­nah Way is a good start. Ex­plore it in sec­tions or drive its length from Broome, in north-western WA, to Cairns, north-eastern Queens­land. A pop­u­lar sec­tion is Cairns to Bur­ke­town. Cov­er­ing epic land­scapes from trop­i­cal ocean, through moun­tain­ous rain­for­est and rich vol­canic agri­cul­tural land to the sa­van­nah of the drive’s name, the road takes in his­tory, cul­ture and nat­u­ral beauty.

A his­toric high­light is Nor­man­ton, a gold­min­ing town that’s home to Ta­galaka man Pa­trick Wheeler, a tra­di­tional owner who runs tours cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from nat­u­ral his­tory to the gold rush to tales that got left out of the his­tory books. “I want to tell ev­ery­one as many sto­ries as I can,” he says.

Bur­ke­town is the base for Yagurli Tours. Gan­galidda man Rod­ney Kum Sing will take you on a river cruise, bush tucker tour or four-wheel-drive taga­long. You can ex­plore salt pans and hear about the lo­cal Dream­ings, gi­ant goanna and blue­tongue lizard, or head to Gin Arm Creek where Rod­ney might catch a ter­rapin prawn and cook it for you on a river­side fire.

Two his­toric trains cross the Sa­van­nah Way, the Savannahlander and the Gulflander, which rolls at a stately 30km/h from Nor­man­ton to Croy­don (see page 62).

Tak­ing in Cob­bold Gorge on an elec­tric boat, pad­dle­board, or even a he­li­copter, is an essen­tial stop. Stay on-site in a chic cabin, cool off in the pool and en­joy ex­cel­lent tucker at the restau­rant.

This is a true out­back ad­ven­ture, so en­sure your car (which should be a 4WD) is equipped with ev­ery­thing you’ll need in case of emer­gency.

For help trav­el­ling the Sa­van­nah Way, con­tact the Sa­van­nah Guides ( sa­van­nah-guides.com.au), a net­work of pro­fes­sional tour op­er­a­tors and guides with ex­per­tise in the area.

Ei­nasleigh River, QLD.

For more in­for­ma­tion:

Gan­galidda man Rod­ney Kum Sing, of Yagurli Tours, catches ter­rapin prawns in Gin Arm Creek, out­side Bur­ke­town.

Rod­ney Kum Sing pi­lots his 4WD through bull dust at Es­cott Sta­tion.

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