A journey across the Northern Territory’s western Gulf Country is a rugged rumble through the region’s past and present.

Story and photos Nathan Dyer    

Located about 1000 kilometres south-east of Darwin, and just south of the fishing mecca of King Ash Bay, Borroloola is the starting point for a rugged 750km journey along the Savannah Way and Roper Highway through the Territory’s western Gulf Country to Katherine, via the remote outpost of Roper Bar. Established in 1885 as an overland stop for diggers heading west to the new goldfields at Halls Creek in the Kimberley, the town is located on the traditional lands of the Yanyuwa people and home to 950 residents. 

On the way out of town, a quick turn east takes travellers to the McArthur River, where local Dean Jack is fishing with his family. Although the river looks calm today, it can be a very different story in the wet season. “Last year, for example, it went right up over that bridge,” Dean says, pointing to a tall new bridge spanning the river nearby. “It was like a sea here, very freaky.” 

Heading west, it’s a short drive on the sealed Carpentaria Highway to the Roper Bar turn-off, where the dirt begins and a sign declares no fuel for the next 366km. From there it’s a dusty and corrugated two-hour rattle through rolling savannah scrub to the front bar of Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, where a wooden sign sums up the feeling of many a bone-rattled traveller: ‘Welcome to Paradise’. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #116

Outback Magazine: December/January 2018