Friday, 19 October 2012

Normanton to Mount Isa

Monday 1st October
This morning we bade a fond farewell to Croydon (and Peter and Shirley) and tootled off to Lake Belmore just 4km out of Croydon
It is a lovely spot with a great picnic area and Kym who ran the caravan park told us they often swim there in spite of several sightings of crocodiles. She reckoned they were only freshies any way and therefore of little consequence.
Signs like this, proclaiming a population of 2500 spread out over 68,000 square kilometres, really bring home the vastness of the country.

Anyway, we trundled on to Normanton and being a public holiday a lot of things were closed including the Public Toilets which were only opened during office hours!!!!!  We finally got some diesel (two of the three servos were out of it) and went for a bit of a walk around.

We saw the Purple Pub (National Hotel) where Neville Shute stayed while gathering material for his novel ‘A Town Like Alice’.

And we saw the statue of ‘Krys the Savannah King’, the largest recorded salt water crocodile captured in the world…..and it was done by a woman!!!!!

The croc was shot on the MacArthur Bank, Norman River in July 1957 by Krystina Pawlowski.
After our walk we adjourned to the old bridge for lunch over the Norman River
We left Normanton, we headed south through some pretty desolate country to our most desolate campsite so far (258) Bang Bang Rest Area.
We were the only ones there (apart from 1,000,000 flies) and I did feel a bit vulnerable. During the night it got a bit windy and there were some unexplained bumps in the night and barking of dogs. I assumed murderers and wild dogs but it turned out that another van had pulled in so we escaped unscathed and sallied forth the next morning.
Tuesday 2nd October
Driving along we were astounded by the number of termite mounds (no place for a housing development here!!)
 A little further on, we came across a couple of fellows droving cattle (the old fashioned way)
We made a brief stop (sausage roll and pink grapefruit drink) at the Burke and Wills Road House where we were served yet again by British back packers. We were told recently that if they work in country areas that they get to extend their visas….don’t know if it’s true but it makes sense.
A little further on, we stopped at a rest area (277) Terry Smith Lookout. We thought it a bit of a stretch since the best place to actually see any view was from half way up the ramp to the toilet

We had gone a few kilometres down the road when we spotted a red Toyota with the bonnet up. It was Sir Ronald to the rescue of fair damsel (Kylie) in distress. She had had her radiator hose fixed the day before but it was boiling over again so we gave her some water and she drove off ahead of us and we never saw her again so we assume she made it safely into Cloncurry.

We stopped at (278) Quamby purely for a photo stop because my 6th class teacher’s name was Mr Quamby. The pub was closed down and looked like it had been for quite some time
We continued on to Cloncurry and did the groceries and replenished the wine cellar.
  Then it was off to (310) Fountain Springs Rest Area. Again this is a bit of a stretch as we can find no evidence of either fountains or springs, but it is free and there was a nice breeze blowing and that’s all you need at the end of the day.
There have been some extensive grass fires around Mt Isa area in the last few weeks and we saw a lot of places where it had been burnt out but this area is still green.

It is a very popular little spot and was quite crowded. We set up camp and almost immediately had visitors. We sat and chatted about this and that and where we were headed and where we had been. Later that evening we chatted with John and Aileen who were from near Rocky. We have decided to stay tomorrow.

Wednesday 3rd October

We woke to a lovely cool breeze and breakfasted under the awning. Then we settled into a full day of relaxation. By lunch time the temperature had risen but we still had a bit of breeze.

The man next door popped over for a chat – quite disturbing actually. It seems that at about 2 O’clock on Monday morning one of the men in the camp had a heart attack and died.  A couple of campers did CPR until the police and ambos came. It took about 45 minutes for them to arrive since the camp is 60km from Cloncurry and 60km for Mount Isa. Any way, it seems his wife is unable to drive the car and caravan and has to wait there now till relatives from Victoria can come and get her on Saturday. Fortunately a couple of other folk are able to postpone their travels and stay with her.

  Later in the afternoon one of Farmer Browns bulls decided to saunter in for a visit as well.
After that two men in a ute carrying explosives stopped for a smoke. They assured us we had no need for concern unless they had jumped out and started running down the road.

Thursday 4th October

We have decided to travel on to Mount Isa today and stay there for a day to recharge and replenish water supplies.
As we travelled along we could see the change in the landscape and there was much more evidence of where the fires had been. It was an incredibly vast area of bush that had been burnt.
We stopped at the tourist information centre and picked up some info. then did our grocery shop.
Did you know that there is no ‘mount’ at Mount Isa and therefore it is never Mt Isa but always Mount Isa?........
I bought myself some new swimmers; my old ones had definitely seen better days. All the elastin had long since disappeared and they had literally become ‘neck to knees’. We popped into the Buffs Club and had a coffee and that was nice. Then it was off to the Mount Isa Caravan Park and a swim in their pool in my new togs.

What a glamour-puss!!!!!!
After scouring the entire Mount Isa CBD and environs and discovering it was entirely bereft of Stanley Wine Casks we purchased instead a sufficient supply of Berri Estate Crisp Dry White 5 litre casks…..four of them in fact!!!!!!
Once you cross the border into the Northern Territory you can only purchase 2 litre casks at extortionate prices. So this will keep us in Happy Hours for a while!!!!!

Camooweal Billabong To Daly Waters

Friday 5th October
After we left Mount Isa, we drove through to Camooweal. We bought fuel at highway robbery prices and drove over the bridge to (315) Camooweal Billabong. 
We stopped here for lunch last year on our trip to Darwin and there was more water then.
But it is a pretty little spot. We plonked ourselves in a gap between one caravan and two others overlooking the billabong. There were heaps of birds, brolgas, black swans, assorted ducks and the occasional cormorant. Not to mention of course, Farmer Browns cows who came wandering past as well

We met the couple next door, Gordon and Carol. They are on their way back home to Hervey Bay after five months in Darwin. They winter in Darwin every year and have done for the last five years.
They were very friendly and we chatted on for ages. We went over for happy hour and met the occupants of the other two caravans on the other side.
Their names were George and Anne. They are on their way to Darwin.
Turns out, we had seen them at (249) Cumberland Chimney last Friday but had not spoken to them. They are travelling together but in separate caravans.
Saturday 6th October
It was up bright and early for breakfast with the locals!!!!
Then we settled down to some more serious relaxation. George tried his hand at fishing (to no avail) and we all teased him mercilessly. We all got together again for sun downers until we were forced inside by a combination of hunger and being nibbled on by biting things.
About 8 o’clock a van of Asian back packers arrived and squeezed in between Indie and Anne’s caravan.
Angus, the driver, came over and introduced himself and I went over for a bit of a chat and was introduced to the others: Jack, Annie and Fannie. Angus was from Hong Kong originally but had been in Adelaide when he met up with the others and decided to come to Queensland.
Sunday 7th October
As we were saying our goodbyes, Gordon told us of a spot in Camooweal where we could fill up with water and that there were toilets and a cold shower in the Community Hall as well.

Armed with this wealth of knowledge we set off and found the watering spot. It was just a little day stop area but I was quite taken by the signage, particularly in relation to fisticuffs! 

We filled up with water and I washed and rinsed our clothes and then put them in the bucket with water and the lid on to continue rinsing with agitator (a.k.a. the motion of Indie as we travel). 

We found our way to the shower and it was cold and the floor was really grotty but it was still one of the best showers I have ever had.

A few minutes later, and we were over the border into the Northern Territory.

We drove along the Barkly Highway for a couple of kilometres and then we hit the road works and about 15km of dirt!

 Fortunately we were back on the bitumen before we met up with a road train going the same way as us.  He was carrying some kind of metal things and a big earth mover and I don’t know what else (mainly because I had my eyes closed). It was Indie’s first time  overtaking a road train (and according to Ron hopefully our last).
There was not a lot of room between us as you can see by the close proximity of Indie’s side mirror to the road train load.
There are many different modes of transport out here but I’m betting Indie without air conditioning is still better than riding a bicycle!!!
We travelled along through all kinds of changing landscapes. We stopped at Barkly Homestead and bought fuel before turning north on to the Tablelands Highway towards Cape Crawford.
We finally saw the Northern Territory’s floral emblem, Sturt’s Desert Rose growing by the roadside. It is really delicate and the plant itself is quite spindly and leggy
The temperature was really high and the country very dry. It was soooooooooo hot inside Indie but the cattle really had it tough.
We finally pulled in to (11) Brunette Downs in the mid afternoon. I got out my bucket of washing and could not believe it-the temperature of the water was about the same as a cup of tea!!!!!! Sadly, the dye had run out of one of my frocks and my undies now have a blue-purple tie dyed look!!!! But dauntless we set up camp in the middle of nowhere and I’m sure we looked like real Hill Billies. Luckily there were not a lot of passers-by
After I had the laundry done, I went for a bit of a walk up the back of our camp and just near a little tiny water hole, I came across some kangaroos having a drink. Of course as soon as they became aware of me, they bounded off.
I had been gone for about an hour (I completely lost track of time) when a concerned Ronnie came walking down the track (axe in hand) to look for me. We walked back to camp and Ron cooked up a beaut bar-b-que dinner.
Being so isolated, the stars were absolutely amazing.
We decided to get an early start in the morning to try to beat a lot of the heat while travelling
Monday 8th October
We were up and away at the crack of dawn (or so it felt). We set off and there was a lot more wild life at that time of day. We saw heaps of birds including a small flock of budgies, a few kangaroos and of course Farmer Brown’s cows.

For a highway it really is more of a goat track!
In fact, they give you 20km notice of an overtaking lane which actually turns out to be just the normal two lanes. One good thing, there is not much traffic.
We continued on to Cape Crawford and the Heartbreak Hotel Campground at the junction of the Tablelands and Carpentaria Highways.
 We had to fill up with fuel, no choice because it was the first fuel since Barkly Homestead, some 367 kilometres.
We filled up and I went to pay and Ron just walked into the café when everything shut down. They had chosen that particular time for some maintenance work on their generators so of course no pumps!!!! They would be down for a good few hours. We were sooooooo lucky with our timing or it would have certainly been heartbreak for us at the Heartbreak Hotel.
As we drove on we saw heaps of Kapok trees and I picked a pod.

The landscape was very much the same but there were more signs of where grass fires had been through recently and we even saw one fire on the side of the road.

We arrived at Daly Waters Pub and got a powered site $24.00 and went straight in to the bar and had a beer and a lemonade and ordered our Beef and Barra dinner for 6.30 pm. We then adjourned to Indie for a rest in air conditioned comfort.
Later we wandered over to the pub for our dinner and who should we bump into but the folks I spoke to at Croydon.
Daryl, Sharron, Callum and Morgan are from Victoria and I met them in the Croydon pub while they were watching the AFL Grand Final. They were the ones that gave us the magazines in the caravan park. Any way, we had dinner with them and it seems our paths crossed in Mount Isa (they spotted us across the road but we did not see them) and will probably cross again as they are headed to Darwin as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment