When the northern part of Australia has unseasonal Winter rains, it can only mean wet roads for travelling, but magnificent lush countryside – something the farmers would no doubt welcome.
So when we decided to take the Bourke Development Road from Normanton to travel east towards Maytown, we’d heard there was still wet patches along the route, even though rains had stopped a few weeks earlier. As we aimed to travel on the dirt as much as possible this trip, we were pretty stoked the road was open.
Bourke Development Road Car Wash
The ever changing scenery along this route made our decision to travel this way a great choice. We found the numerous lagoons had all been revitalised from the recent rains, and were now havens for many birds (pelicans, brolgas, and a variety of ducks). With the addition of plenty of water lilies as well, we really timed our visit right.
There were multiple lagoons we stopped at to check out the birdlife
The causeway crossing at Wyaama Creek had surprisingly fast flowing water which a local explained had been pretty well dry a few weeks ago. He told us that the 150mm rain received in recent weeks rivalled that of the 1974 floods, so that really hit home just how much rain the area had received!
Turning off the Bourke Development Road to head to Maytown, we passed Mount Mulgrave before passing through Palmerville Station and further to Maytown. Back in the 1870s, the Palmer River goldfield area was a flurry of mining activity, and with Maytown as the main settlement, it was touted as the best thing to happen to Queensland at the time.
From Palmerville to Maytown, it’s only a short 33km trip. Track conditions were extremely good as it was obvious the grader had recently been through. Remnants of the old telegraph line through here were still visible along the track, so we took advantage of these by stopping for the odd photo.
An old Bedford tucked off the track by Palmerville Station
Crossing the Palmer River to reach Maytown proved a bumpy ride – the crossing which spans about 50 metres had a right hand bend covered with trees making it difficult to see what was hiding around the corner, and the condition of the exit. As it turned out, we found the crossing to pose little problem, but a sign on the far side indicated it wasn’t recommended!
The old township of Maytown is such a step back in time. While not a lot remains, signs indicating where buildings used to be are numerous, so it’s not hard to imagine a bustling town it would have been back then. The area is extremely remote, and no doubt it would have been a lonely life for miners, and the last place where you would ever want to get sick!
When there's no track traffic you can pretty well stop anywhere
The old cobblestone gutters that still remain in the town’s main street were very impressive – these were pretty well the last real remnants of days gone by. After spending a few hours looking around the old town, it was time to tackle the infamous Old Coach Road to Laura (73 kilometres), which is often referred to as the Maytown Track.
Leaving Maytown along the track, we passed a couple of old gold mines where relics were still visible. These all made for a good stop and look around, as the batteries have basically been left as if time stood still. There were many relics of yesteryear, and it goes without saying, leave them as you find them so that others can enjoy them after you’re long gone.
The Maytown Track proved challenging in places when towing the camper trailer. Track turns were frequently tight, there was a lot of rock hopping, and travelling in low range required. And when you’re navigating ruts and washaways on steep inclines or descents, don’t be alarmed if you frequently find your vehicle on three wheels and getting some serious air time. We pretty well found it a regular occurrence on the track, and for these reasons, passing oncoming vehicles was never easy. By the looks of some of these vehicles’ passengers’ faces, we somehow don’t think they were enjoying the ride!!!
No doubt the track has deteriorated over time, but the views were still as stunning as ever as we made our way closer to Laura. Renowned as one of the more challenging tracks in Queensland, we’re glad to have given the Maytown Track a red hot go, as we pulled into camp at Jowalbinna near Laura nearly 7 hours later.
Here we go again
So with the Maytown Track now done and dusted, it’s full steam ahead as we travel further to our final destination for this trip, the tip of Cape York.
Catch you next time.
Grant & Linda