Queensland has taught us a lot about rain, and what happens if you’re camped in the wrong spot. On a number of occasions we’ve struggled to get out of camp, or watched others get stuck, and it is nothing short of amazing until you’ve seen it with your own eyes.
It doesn’t take much rain in parts of the country for a very normal patch of ground to turn into the slipperiest, sloppiest mud fest that you’ve ever experienced, and it really is quite incredible to watch.
Bogged in a flat paddock
Our first experience was at the beautiful Miallo Creek Farm stay, which is in one of the wetter parts of Australia, not far from Port Douglas. We had a couple of amazing nights here, but it rained a fair bit on the last night, and through the morning of our departure. I naively took off in 2WD from camp across the grass paddock, wondering how soon it would be until it started slipping, and I barely made it to the first corner before we stopped moving.
I put it in 4WD, and proceeded to try and drive out the track, with zero chance. I’d go forwards, backwards and forwards again, and each time the surface of the grass would get ripped up, and you’d be spinning slicks and going no where.
It got so bad, that I could go neither forward, or reverse with our hybrid camper on, on completely flat ground! I was conscious of ripping the paddock up too much as well, until the owner came down and said just rip it up and head for the longer grass, which is much better for traction.
Needless to say I got moving, after much slipping and sliding around and once we got into the longer grass that hadn’t been cut it was much easier. Our car and camper were covered in a thick layer of mud, and we left a big mess behind, but the owner thought it was hilarious.
Stuck in a caravan park
A few months later, well into the middle of the ‘dry season’ that far north Queensland experiences each year, we got word of a heap of rain coming through Australia. We kept an eye on it, and decided to head all the way to Karumba to avoid most of the rain.
We spent 3 nights at the Point Fuel Caravan Park, and had picked a site up the hill, so if it did rain, we’d be well above where the water would run to. A couple of other people camped down lower, near the lagoon, and whilst one moved, the other didn’t, and the next morning I could hear a 4WD reversing through the caravan park, I could see they were setting up to pull this Hilux camper out, and it took all of one wheel spin for the tyres to start to sink.
I wandered over, wondering how it could be so slippery, only to nearly slip onto my bum. The black soil was like clay, and my question was answered pretty quickly. In the process of pulling this camper out, another 4WD was asked to move, who was camped nearby, and even with everything engaged it was spinning all 4 wheels and going no where. It was almost comedic, but one vehicle was pulled out of the way, and then the camper, who’d done the right thing and not moved or got stuck, but stopped as soon as it started to sink down.
Bogged in a free camp
On our way out of Karumba that morning, we drove into Normanton, and could see a heap of vehicles that were covered in mud, and some further in that were clearly stuck. They’d camped the night in the free RV park, and with the rain that had fallen were completely and utterly stranded, in the middle of a giant, red bog fest.
We spoke to a couple of them later on who’d spent the better part of 3 hours getting out of the camp site, and said there were still a number of people stuck.
Stuck next to a lagoon
Last, but not least was at Leichardt Lagoon where we pulled in for a night, not far from Normanton. The caretaker was surprised to see us come in, as they had a fair bit of rain and weren’t expecting any visitors. I asked where we should camp, and he said anywhere, but not near the lagoon. He pointed across, and said there’s a whole heap of people down there that are stuck, and can’t get out.
I took a walk later that afternoon, and saw a stuck VW, and a whole heap of other vehicles that would have been in a whole heap of trouble if they’d moved. Even the light weight buggy, which was running really wide tyres had sunk about 75mm in spots on a track, which I was shocked about. Just walking through with boots on and I found patches that were sinking easily 50mm; no wonder a 3+ tonne 4WD was stuck!
The next morning I saw a Land Cruiser trying to get out, without their van. They needed to get food from in town, and had moved about 15 metres, leaving huge trenches behind. The driver was an older bloke, who was gently driving forward, then reversing, and going back and forth. I was pretty confident he’d never get out without a winch, but with some patience he made it onto solid ground, and then pushed new trenches through the final soft bit onto higher areas.
Think very carefully about where you camp
The moral of the story is this; if its going to rain, you should be incredibly careful about where you camp, or even drive. That section of dry, black sand near a lagoon is likely going to turn into the slipperiest, most sludgy mud you’ve ever seen, and trying to get a 4WD out (even without towing anything) is going to be a mission!
We’ve gotten lucky, and whilst the rain in the dry season was very unusual, it caught dozens of people out and some were still stuck when we departed the next day.
Have you picked a camp a little too close to the action? Let us know below!