We set up quickly in a grassy area beside the roadhouse. The kids ran off and immediately hooked up with another bunch across the way. I wandered up and bought a cold beer, and a glass of chilled wine for Erin. Ahhhh…
Musgrave Station is a working cattle station, that used to be a telegraph station too. Back in the day it was also a fortress, with corrugated walls and little slits where they would poke their guns out and take pot shots at the local Aborigines when they were out on the war hunt – which was fairly frequently by the sounds of it.
I was told this by Mel, who had just entertained us all by feeding ribs and bread to the freshwater crocodiles in the damn right next to the camp site. There was a fence, which wouldn’t stop a crocodile in the least, keeping all the mums, dads and kids about four feet back from the edge of the water. Walt Disney would have had a fit.
Mel was a nice fella. We had a chat watching a bunch of horses, chase a dingo, chase a kangaroo across the plain, as long necked turtles fought with crocodiles behind us for the remaining scraps of bread. Fo’ shizzle.
There were lots of families camped here and it had a really nice feel to it. There’s a certain camaraderie this far up. You’re either going up, or coming down, and we’re all kind of in the same boat. People quite happy and willing to help each other out with repairs, tools, advice, secrets to explore or just the latest updates on the roads and camp sites.
Then Katie got a temperature. Again. Of all the bloody places. Heading up to one of the most remote spots in the fucking country. We gave her some Nurofen and she got a good night’s sleep to begin with, then woke up in the middle of the night throwing up, and the hellish cough returned. Shit. The next day she was a little better though, so we decided to press on as quickly as possible to Weipa, the Cape’s largest town, which also happened to have a wee hospital.
Packed up and offski before 9am, we jumped back into the corrugations and cruised along about 80km an hour. Tarmaced sections of the road would appear now and again, and you could speed up to 100, make up some time.
With a sick child in the back seat, and the pressing deadline of our booking up the top, we sped past lots of little places that we would have stopped at otherwise. We put ourselves under a bit of pressure to keep moving, and once again we reached our expected destination – the Archer River Roadhouse – a lot earlier than anticipated. So we kept going to make the next day’s drive to Weipa even shorter.
We landed at Merluna Station, another cattle farm that had a grassy camp area, a swimming pool, and a very rustic camp kitchen with a fire pit out the front. And breathe…
Katie wasn’t doing at all well by now. She fell asleep in the front seat while we set up in the shade of a tree. Then she woke and started throwing up. We checked her temperature and it was over 39. Phhhwoooo…
Erin administered the Nurofen and I kept Skye out the way for a while. We walked up to ask how far it was to Weipa, and what our medical options were. The lady was lovely and said we could use the phone to call the Flying Doctors. They can talk you through a situation if you like, even come and pick you up if it’s urgent. Pretty sure we won’t need any of those options, but thanks, it’s nice to know.
So a stressful afternoon in Merluna, a dreadful night’s sleep (again) and we packed up in record time the next day. A quick hour and a half on the road, and we trundled into Weipa. Hurrah!