The rocky landscape at Leichhardt Falls, north of Normanton.
The rocky landscape at Leichhardt Falls, north of Normanton. Nancy Bates

Travellers stare down an eagle perched on roadkill

OPINION: We planned to go north-west from Chillagoe, eschewing the more well-travelled section of the Savannah Way through Georgetown and electing instead to do about 600km of dirt, dust and gravel past cattle stations and the Kowanyama turn-off.

We fuelled up at Tom Prior's bowsers set among his astonishing collection of vintage and veteran Fords.

As the general carrier for Chillagoe for more than 50 years, he knew every corrugation for hundreds of kilometres.

We asked him what the top road to Karumba was like.

He had been across it a couple of weeks ago.

"It's like a highway," he snorted.

It wasn't too bad, we found.

Closer to Normanton it deteriorated a bit, probably because the Shire of Carpentaria can't seem to afford a grader for the top part of its domain.

The dry was starting to bite into the land as we wound our dusty way past stations but the upside was the birdlife clustered around waterholes and rivers.

Flocks of yellow-tailed black cockatoos screeched with the more common red-tails; brolgas and jabiru stalked the paddocks and ponds; eagles and hawks - whistling brown kites that seem to be taking over the land - searched for live prey and carrion.

Isabel led a convoy of three.

Following her were Ed and Rita from San Diego in their little motor home Thelma Toyota Landcruiser and bringing up the rear were Barb and Phil from Maryborough in Narelle Nissan with a rooftop camper.

We encountered a wedge-tail eagle with more attitude than Peter Slipper.

It perched on a small wallaby carcass on the right-hand side of the road, where we had to remind Ed not to drive.

The eagle glared as Isabel approached.

It sat tight and balefully guarded its carrion prize as we passed within a couple of metres.

It stared down Thelma, refusing to budge an inch.

It flexed its muscled shoulders as Narelle neared and dared Phil to take it on.

My word, that eagle had a lot in common with the said Slipper.

We wondered when it would be finally tossed from its feasting.

It's a lonely but fascinating route a long, long way from Canberra.

A talking point in this month's federal election was the city-focus of politicians, particularly the ALP.

Kevin Rudd referred to "out here" on one of his campaign stops.

He was in Rooty Hill, the Sydney suburb.

Maybe all aspirant politicians should do a stint where it is really "out here" and learn a about their country on corrugations rather than crawling around the corridors of power.