Our next stop was Adel’s Grove, named after a French botanist, Albert De Lestang, who was commissioned by the government to experiment growing tropical trees & fruits in the 1930’s. By 1939 he had over 1000 different species and it was a most beautiful botanic garden. In the early 1950’s it was burnt out and subsequent owners have not continued the botanical aspect of the Grove. We were camping in ‘The Grove’ area, next to Lawn Hill Creek and it is still an impressive grove with lots of tall trees and exotic foliage. The reason to stop here is to visit Lawn Hill National Park (NP), now known as Boodjamulla NP, after the rainbow serpent who created the gorge and all the animals in the Dreamtime. It is a 10 km drive to the NP and we spent the afternoon canoeing through the Lawn Hill Gorge, even did the portage and canoed through the Upper Gorge. It was quite magical since the lush tropical vegetation (ie Livstonia Palms, figs, pandamus etc) are remnants of the ancient rainforest that covered the Gulf Savannah millions of years ago. The gorges have sheer 60 m (200 foot) sandstone walls and beautiful clear green water. Finished the day with a drink at our neighbors campfire. Returned the next day to do the 8km Upper Gorge Walk which was stunning – great variety of terrain, 3 fabulous lookouts, a swim at the falls and a beautiful sunny day. We walked all along the tops of the gorges we canoed through the day before and got a much better perspective of the gorge system and the surrounding area. Walking along the gorge beside the high red cliffs and amongst the ferns and palms was very special, and we were disappointed that we didn’t have time to do more walks there. Met another couple, Ken and Roz,with an Explorer Motorhome like ours, so had some great conversations with them before and after our walk.
Travelling in the outback its good to stay flexible, as we found out again, when we turned up at Hells Gate Roadhouse at 1pm to get fuel and were greeted with a sign advising they were out of diesel. So we had lunch in the roadhouse, one of the nicest we’ve come across and one where we actually were happy to eat the food. Hells Gate takes its name from the days when the police escorted the drovers and pastoralists to the Hells Gate pass on the NT border and then they were on their own. We waited until 4pm when the fuel truck arrived and we were able to continue on. Could have stayed there as it seemed good but we wanted to visit a free camp 30 km down the road and we were glad we did. Stayed at Hann Creek Billabong on our own and sat outside with a beer watching about 40 different bird species flitting around the billabong – very pleasant! And the sunrise was also special. Funny for us to see a sunrise but the 6 am alarm is becoming a habit (maybe we are turning into grey nomads after all). That stop marked the last overnight in Queensland and 10,000 kms so far on this trip.