Time has come to start the next adventure of travelling this great land of ours.
The vehicle has been serviced and prepared, Tvan trailer serviced and repaired and the departure date is set for 5 June 2017.
This year we have some plans and then we have some ‘No Ideas’ too. The plans are that we will head north through Swan Hill toward Broken Hill taking in some of the National Parks along the way. We will keep driving North along the NSW and SA borders into QLD following some Burke and Wills expedition sites as well as some old iconic Australian locations. Eventually we will arrive in Cairns to meet Emily and Sam who are flying in and spending two weeks camped in Port Douglas with us. Once the kids fly home the ‘No Idea’ part of the trip kicks in.
Will we go north to Cape York? Will we go South along the Whitsunday Coast? Will we head back across the Savannah to the NT?
Stay tuned – we will keep you posted (when we have coverage) and when we know where we are going.
Home to Swan Hill
Day 1 – Well it was decided nothing was going to be to rushed this morning as we only had to drive to Swan Hill for the first night. After saying good bye to Emily and Sam as they headed off to school, it was time to finish the little things around the house so our friend Tracey had nothing to do except house and dog sit for us (thanks Tracey).
11.30 am and time to drive. The first hour saw us on the other side of the city with hardly a traffic issue and from then on it was very relaxed. We took the scenic route thanks to Google maps via Clunes and every other outback town but still, we made it to Swan Hill. With the forecast temperature dropping to 0 degrees for the night we decided a powered site with our heater was a good first night option. Staying at the Big 4 Riverside and it would have to be close to five stars.
Day 2 – Swan Hill to Mungo National Park
Gotta love camping – first night and slept about 10 hours. Of course it was an early night into bed to escape the cold. Not in any rush this morning so we sorted a few things before hitting the road. First stop was more fuel (1.299 cpl) before the drive north toward Mungo. We reached the township of Balranald where a fresh loaf of country baked wholegrain bread was purchased (and a couple of small lemon tarts) for our salad sandwiches. A nice easy and relaxing drive was had all the way to Mungo NP. A quick visit to information / ranger station to look at what Mungo is all about before driving over to the campground and picking our site for night. We were advised that minus 3 is the forecast for the night so I guess I will need to sleep in the beanie. A small fire to keep warm with dinner before retreating inside the camper trailer to escape the cold air.
Day 3 – Mungo National Park to Pooncarie
Brrr that was cold, although in bed I was quite warm. A fresh morning where the south westerly wind of yesterday has returned to keep the temperature low. We packed up and drove over to the ranger station again where I parked the camper trailer before we went exploring. I never knew Mungo was so significant to Australian history. It has the remains of the oldest man (full skeleton) to be found outside of Africa dated at 45000 years. Yep he is called Mungo Man and they even uncovered a cremated woman who they aptly named ‘Mungo Woman’. Outside of this the geology of the area dating back to our Ice Age then the events since has been preserved in this natural environment. Best of all we went to the natural soaks where the water is just under the surface. On arriving we spotted some Emus playing and drinking in the soaks and we were able to get quite close to them. After a short time from the sand dune we watched as more and more Emus made their way in for a midday drink which then became a fight. Suffice to say we were entertained for the next half hour. After lunch we headed north until we came across a town on the Darling River called Pooncarie. Population 60. A nice camp site was found along the river where we again bunkered down for another cold night.
Day 4 – Pooncarie to Silverton
On the road and moving north by 9 am where it was definitely warmer in the car than the magnificent country fresh air outside. We arrived at the Menindee Lakes where we drove around check out potential future camp sites and the surrounds. Some morning tea by the lake before driving onto Broken Hill where more fuel was bought (1.26cpl) and a few groceries at Woolworths. We drove out of town to the west where Silverton was located 26 kilometres away. Wow! What an old historic town with some original building beautifully in tact and maintained since the 1860s. After lunch it was into the Mad Max 2 museum which is actually why we went to Silverton and all I can say is OMG! Awesome! $7.50 entry and no photographs inside the building (due to actors copyright) but the walls were lined with photographs of the movie being filmed out there. The photos showed everything from the make up artists applying their trade to the actual movie scene being filmed. Actors in and out of character all having a great time and then their was the memorabilia on the display. We told that photos out the back were permitted so some snaps were captured out there. The original bus (aka the gate) was there, the truck and then some replica works also. A must visit location for movie fans.
We decided that there was no point driving back to Broken Hill and then north so we continued on out the back of Silverton into open dirt roads between sheep stations. We located a farm stay for the night at a station called Enlee where the host was very accomodating. Camp was set for the night and a quick walk around the station before dinner and yet another early night.
Day 5 – Silverton to Tibooburra
Another magnificent morning as I made my way over to the amenities where I was greeted by the property horse. He was standing there waiting for the morning meet and greet. No longer after was the procession of farm animals all let out of their pens for the morning ritual. There were goats pigs and who knows what else as they ran from one side of the farm, past the amenities to the other side. Quite an entertaining sight first thing in the morning.
On the road by 9 am and after some quick directions, “just keep heading north”, we were travelling toward Milparinka and Tibooburra in northern NSW. The road saw us following the South Australia border within 20 km as we drove the public access routes through cattle and sheep stations. Conditions were great, roads not to bad and wind was still damn cold.
Another history lesson in Milparinka and looking at the old architecture that has stood the test of time before driving into Tibooburra for camp for the night. We decided to camp out at the Aboriginal camp site which was comfortable and enabled us to have a fire to keep warm.
Day 6 – Tibooburra to Innamincka
Three states in one day is the agenda for today. A top up of diesel (1.46 cpl) before we drove 130 kms from Tibooburra to Cameron Corner and the state border. Greeted by the vermin proof fence we stopped in at the pub, had a stubby of beer before lunch then went and stood in NSW, QLD and SA at the same time. It’s a tourist thing that you just have to do.
The drive for the afternoon out to Innaminka was relaxing and easy going with non stop ups and downs like on a roller coaster. The dunes were hard packed on top and only small amounts of corrugations to keep you alert. We drove through until we reached the Old Strezleki track and up through the gas and oil fields until we reached the Cooper Creek and found a great spot of river frontage for the night.
We decided before dinner we should go and support the local economy so into the Innaminka Hotel we went for a pre dinner pot. The was lined with a golden liquid that I think they thought was gold as it was $7 per pot. Hey – if it keeps the pub open I’m happy.
The night was finished off with campfire souvlaki and more beer.
Day 7 – Innaminka to Durrie (just out of Birdsville)
The wind is gone. A cracker of a morning with about 5 degrees outside so it was easy to move around. It’s amazing how much you climatise to your surrounds and environment. We had no idea how far today would see us drive as there was so much to see on the way.
First up we went to the campsite and final resting place of Robert O’Hara Burke and actually stood under the Coolibah tree where he laid down and died in 1861. Sad to think it occurred and yet to read why you realise that there are some who are narrow minded and fool hardy. Despite his demise at this location it was a beautiful spot. We the drove on to the Dig Tree where the Depot camp was for the Burke and Wills expedition. This again was another fascinating piece of Australian history and although you could no longer read the blazes in the tree, the dedicated Face Tree to Burke was amazing.
We decided to drive the Cordillo Downs track to have a look at Australia’s largest sheep shearing shed. This would see us needing to drive up the Sturt Stoney Dessert towards Birdsville and again see us swapping borders from SA to QLD to SA and finishing in QLD.
The shearing shed was huge and the way it was built with a curved roof very clever. The inside was nothing like the one in Mungo NP that we saw which I would say is the best I have ever seen. It was a bare shell but still open for the historians to come,, visit and reflect on a past era. The old trucks and equipment lying around to ruin was just as fascinating.
The push north continued up the dessert track and to say it was Stoney is an understatement. My gosh – we were shaken, rattled and thankfully not rolled. The suspension was tested to the limits, the vehicle and trailer in addition to ourselves. That was one hell of a bumpy ride that loosens the fillings in your teeth. We made to a roadside stop 100 kilometres outside of Birdsville that was going to be camp for the night. Clean and simple with the most amazing hues from the sunset across the plains.
Day 8 – Durrie to Birdsville
It’s shorts time. The sun is out and time to pack the long pants away. Not a big day planned for today with 100 kilometres to drive until camp. A super easy cruise saw us arrive into the township of Birdsville at 10.20 a.m., and after visiting another Burke and Wills camp site it was off to the van park.
Trailer parked and set up, laundry washing done and hung and off to the famous Birdsville Bakery for pies. Spicy chicken and peppered steak for me and Kathy had the lamb shank pie and was then cheeky and bought a Vanilla Slice whilst I wasn’t looking but did share it with me. Mmmm. Back to camp where were spent the day relaxing, talking to Emily and Sam on the phone before going to the pub for dinner with new friends.
Day 9 – Birdsville
Good morning Birdsville. Cloudy sky and winds greeted us this morning as we took the day off travelling to settle in and sort a few things out. A relaxed morning saying goodbye to new friends before we headed off for a drive out to Big Red for some sand during. On arrival I didn’t recognise the dune. There was so much vegetation as result of the rains and the grader were busy in the clay pan making the camp ground for the Big Red Bash 2017 in a months time. I was also surprised that they were laying bitumen out to Big Red. With sand flag attached is was time to drive up top and enjoy the views before driving down the dune and into the Simpson Dessert for a little looksy. We drove about 12 dunes in so we could see what it was like and obviously plan for another trip. We had a great day playing in the dunes and I even managed to talk a bloke in his brand new 200 series to let the tyres down and have a crack at the dunes. Of course I got to accompany and it really was a little to easy for him. Twin turbo V8 with front and rear diff locks engaged. After a few hours it was time to head back to camp to settle for an afternoon of rest.
Day 10 – Birdsville to Diamatina Lakes National Park
Where does the morning go? We were up reasonably early. We did a few things and even had showers but before we knew the time had blown out. With a few hundred kilometres to drive it was looking good for a slow relaxed pace today. We filled the fuel tanks ($1.60 cpl) and headed out north bound stopping for the shoe monument and then some photos of Kathy’s first wild camel sighting. The roads were smooth, dry and dusty. A few more side stops checking out potential future camp sites before coming across another bore. This one obviously flows the same line to Birdsville as it is a boiling water bore at the exit pipe. The maps showed us a line of bores that we were to follow. Not a bad free water supply that you just need to cool before using. We arrived at camp a little late in the afternoon and all the good spots were gone but we did manage to find a spot that would be home for the next two sleeps at a lake. The Pelicans were as graceful as ever and few of the old boys were grabbing the shrimp for bait the next day. A beautiful lake in a wonderful environment shared with thousands of tiny bush flies (come on dusk).
Day 11 – Diamantina Lakes
No travelling today but a drive around the National Park exploring what nature has left for us to appreciate. After a relaxed morning and a lesson in Drones for young Laughlin (next camp) it was time to go for our day out. Some much to appreciate and see if you take you time. Footprints in clay pans, a wide variety of vegetation, red dunes, white sands, dry lakes and permanent water holes. Old horse yards where the branding and other stockman duties were done to the attempts to settle the land and build a place of residence (now ruins). This is a really diverse National Park and I truely understand why the nations major population of bush flies love living here. The weather has turned as we approach the Tropic of Capricorn with warm days of 27 degrees and mild nights around 10 degrees.
Day 12 – Diamantina Lakes NP to Bladensberg NP (Winton)
We the the most direct road out of the Diamantina Lakes to Winton trying to cut out some kilometres and see what the average traveller doesn’t. Much to our surprise we cam across another old ruin which was the Mayne Junction Hotel with an underground cooler to keep the beers cold. A stop and explore before I sighted what appeared to be a grave site off in the distance at the rear of the ruin. As all good explorers would I headed in the direction, weaving in, out and around bushes and prickles whilst keeping a keen eye out for Taipan and Brown snakes that live in the area. I made it over and found a small cemetery that had six known graves of different families. The oldest being in 1890 of a young 20 year old girl. To think that 100 years after European settlement of the land that we would have digressed out into these harsh living conditions. We pressed on, needing to tip a couple of jerry cans of fuel into the Patrol so we could make Winton. The drive was really good again across the magnificent mountain ranges until we met a real cowboy. Such a cowboy he decided to over take me at a speed I would estimate as 110 kmh plus on a gravel road, showering the windscreen and car with gravel and cracking my windscreen. Blood pressure 100 out of 100 instantaneous (I will maintain my professionalism and keep the rest of my thoughts to myself). In Winton we grabbed a couple of veggies and headed in to the Bladensberg NP to find a camp site for night. Another great camping location despite no water in the river.
Day 13 – Bladensberg NP to Richmond
A mild night with a cracking good morning. A little breakfast and having slept with a troubled mind about an electrical issue with the Tvan I had solved it. So a small amount of the morning was doing some fault testing and yep – I got it. A new ANDERSON plug is all that is needed to ensure the camper battery charges whilst we drive.
We were on the road by 9 am and visited Skull Hole which has a horrific set of events about it and a sad reflection of a time thankfully gone. The hole itself and the gorge it was in was magnificent. Then on the road back into Winton to buy the plug and some Facetime with Emily, Sam and mum. Lunch ended up being a couple of local baked pies which were delicious but I really didn’t need them. Then on the road we went. Again taking the back road to Richmond the drive was relaxed and plenty of time to travel as distance was not against us today.
In for the next two days at a van park which is worthy of the good reviews it has been getting on WikiCamps. We decided to go down to local pub to help support the local economy and saw the chicken schnitzels with chips and salad were $10 a throw. A couple of those thanks good sir was in order. OMG! The joint will go broke with the size of the feed. Nevertheless we both dined to our hearts content.
Day 14 – Richmond
The caravan park decide to empty out by 7.30 am and the noise of everyone going meant no sleep in (not that we are sleep deprived). The outside temp was 18 degrees so it was up and into it. Coffee, repairs, servicing and dusting of the car sorted and it was time to go to Kronosauros Korner which is why we came. RICHMOND is home to Australia’s marine dinosaurs discoveries with finds of bones dating back 130 million years ago when we had the inland sea. I’ve wanted to visit here for years.
Like an excited school kid on excursion and we were in. $25 per adult to see the displays and I could hand the card over quick enough. WOW! A little lost for words. It was amazing, incredible, informative, professional and highly inspiring. Australia is awesome! Some of the biggest finds are in the last five years so I am glad I haven’t visited earlier. The last room we entered which contained a complete skeleton that was found in 2012 was a climate controlled room. The only one in the world like it. Again I am speechless to the experience. On leaving we got directions to the dig sites, returned to camp and after lunch headed off to do some fossicking.
The dig site was huge and scattered everywhere was shale rocks. You could just flip them and search. Nearly everything rock contained marine shells from the prehistoric period and three was just so many but I wanted more. I wanted the whole bone thing so I kept fossicking and fossicking and then some more. Eventually I discovered a huge rock with what appeared to be the spine of something in it. The rock also had a negative impression of where another bone may have been. Due to not have the bob cat in tow a photo is all I could manage. I found some other scatter bones which I kept and a small rock containing some shells to show Emily and Sam. My show and tell time! The wait was over and the experience of Kronosauros Korner was satisfyingly complete. A recommended visit location to all I know to come and experience. Tomorrow our exploring continues as we commence our volcanic education in our prehistoric environment.
Day 15 – Richmond to Lynd Junction (Oasis Roadhouse)
7.30 am and I am down at the only butcher shop in town. We needed a small top up of meat and the sign said local milled meats and I thought that sounded pretty good. I placed an order and arranged for pick up at 9.00 o’clock. We had the camper trailer filled with water and packed up and decided to do some fresh fruit and veggies as well as out meat. We filled the car up with fuel ($1.30 cpl) a headed for Cobbold Gorge.
Our destination was separated by a sandstone range which meant we were only 150 kilometers as the crow flies but needed to drive over 500 kilometers to get there so an overnight stop was going to be needed. We took the route via Hughenden which was a straight drive east before turning north for the duration. An uneventful drive through cattle country before we arrived at The Lynd Junction where was camp was to be behind a service station. A place we had camped before and again another night around a big fire saw us meet new and interesting people from SA. Jeff was a retired fireman traveling with his wife and family. We got along really well with them – lovely people.
Day 16 – Lynd Junction to Cobbold Gorge
138 km to drive – that’s the total for the day. A fresh morning that warmed quickly. We headed off for the journey not expecting any delays and in fact we anticipated being at our destination by 11 am at the latest – until we came across the Enleigh River bridge which saw us spend the best part of 45 mins playing around with the car, camera and just enjoying a magnificent River. Then we drove on and reached the town of Enliegh with Copperfield Gorge and the historic timber bridge over the river system, the gorge instead was spectacular and it was decided that it was midday somewhere in the world so we went and had a pre lunch stubby and the pub which was built around 1890. The beer was icy cold and well received. I would of enjoyed one or two but we needed to drive on to our destination as it was now past midday.
Next town on was Forsyth and this did us nicely for lunch and to our surprise it had a bottle shop. Just in the nick of time as we had run out and I was to keen on spending a fortune on beer at Cobbold Gorge. Forsyth had a nice display of antique mining and farming equipment like so many towns do and everything was so well kept. Pride is a word that best describes some of the remote outback communities.
Back on to the rocky road to the gorge where skippy took a bounce to long and we still don’t know whether contact was made between the two of us or not. Either the way his next hop was straight up in the air and off the bridge and there was no damage on the car. Finally we made it into Cobbold Gorge Resort having had a truly great day sightseeing over our short drive which ended up being six hours. Resort it was too.
Day 17 and 18 – Cobbold Gorge Resort
Camping at the gorge resort was down a hill in a clearing where u pick your own spot with fire pit. Due to the remoteness of the resort not a lot of campers but still about 20 vehicles. The resort had the most magnificent looking infinity pool that looks over their dam and a real outback rustic charm to the bar area. The showers were ensuites with great water pressure, plenty of hot water and very clean. The camp kitchen was basic but sufficient enough that we didn’t need to use any of our own things and utilised theirs.
We had paid for a gorge tour which saw us loaded onto a 4wd bus and driven out across the cattle station to a purpose built bus shelter down on the river. The tour was an informative style where we first hiked through the Savannah having foods and poisons from trees taught to us, history of murder and grave sites from the late 1800s when Europeans and Aboriginals were still at war until we got on the purpose built boats and driven down the gorge. Very spectacular in size, appearance and creation. At $90 pp for the tour it was worth doing.
The next day at camp for us was a nothing day. A day of tinkering, tidying, relaxing, swimming and we even utilised the free kayaks and paddled around the man made lake at the resort. Cobbold Gorge is worthy of a recommendation to anyone traveling past it.
Day 19 – Cobbold Gorge to Undarra Lava Tubes
Mornings in this part of the world are great. A little fresh first thing but within half an hour just awesome. We headed east now as we make our way towards our first booking for the trip in a few days time. Again 138 kms is the agenda for the day but we kept an open mind as to how long this will take. We came out a different route via Georgetown then through Mt Surprise to Undarra.
Undarra promotes itself as the ” Undarra Experience ” and an experience it was!
Firstly we arrived and were wowed at the utilisation of old railway carriages as the building and accommodations of the location. On checking we were pleasantly greeted and advised that there were only two powered sites left and the lady serving us indicated hat she didn’t real like them but that’s all there was. Kathy indicated that her opinion and honesty were appreciated and when she asked are they reduced if there not as good as everyone else’s the lady realised the error she had made. She kindly discounted our rate to stay whilst apologising to me for possibly upsetting Kathy. Then she realized she had only charged me for one night and I think she felt uncomfortable because she again apologised and then said, “don’t worry I’ll sort something out”. Bang two nights for less than one normal night. A great experience so far!
We went for a walk around the other campsites taking time to photograph some Mareeba Wallablies that we had stumbled across and met another couple taking some photos too. He looked familiar and turned out was a local ambo on the Mornington Peninsula. As we walked off we could hear a awful sounding screeching noise that we couldn’t at first determine whether an animal in distress or someone has hurt themself. We strolled over to see what the commotion was and found a bloke who was making the noise being helped to his feet by a good citizen but he was flapping his arms around like he was having a fit. I watched calmly as Kathy walked off and grabbed the ambo in case “mate” was having a medical turn – and then he opened his mouth and spoke. Hmm! He was trying to tell people he was having a stroke but as I watched on and observed the blood coming from his feet, legs and flapping of both arms, I thought – doubt it! Anyway the good ambo and his nurse wife came and took mate back to his wife and camp whilst I stayed and spoke to Mr Good Citizen who was upset and concerned for “mate” and kept relaying what he had seen to me. As I showed him my cheery enthusiasm at the experience whilst kicking my feet around the leaf litter on the ground searching the immediate area – “bingo” I exclaimed. Found the smoking pipe. I picked it up and showed it to Mr Good Citizen – “bloody drug users” but praised him for his concern. He was amazed and could not believe he had just witnessed a drug overdose. I walked over to where “mates” camp was and used every bit of will power from approaching but was able to show the ambo the said device. Sure enough he surrendered a bag of synthetic Cannabis to the ambo and made full admissions. I threw the smoking pipe in the rubbish bin whilst the ambo sprinkled the Cannabis around the ground. Mr Good Citizen again approached me as he couldn’t help but to keep walking laps (adrenalin dump) and I told him that I had binned the pipe and to keep a watch because I reckon “mate” will go searching for it like an addict. Yep right again and in fact it gave me another 30 minutes of entertainment. Another Undarra Experience.
Day 20 – Undarra Lava Tubes
Tube day with a 10.30 am tour booking we had plenty of time in the morning. I cooked bacon and eggs over in the camp kitchen which was delicious and just as I was about to take the last piece of yolks egg and bacon onto my fork – wham! Mr Kookaburra must have decided it was now or never. He swooped in and took the last mouthful off the plate and so close to me that I was almost hit in the face by his wings. Then he had the nerve to eat it in front of me for the next 10 minutes.
We went over to the tour and our tour guide was named Bram. Of the two he had the most worn out hat and spoke with the most confidence so we thought we would get on his bus. Right choice! It turned out that we were in the for a hostile you lesson on the settlement of the land, cattle grazing and child hood memories of him growing up around the lava tubes. He was a direct descendant of the original European settlement of the area by his great grandfather in the 1860s . This knowledge flowed seamlessly from grazing the area to the history of the lava tubes and there formation. Bram delivered what I would describe as one of the most entertaining and informative that I have experienced. To say WOW at the experience just doesn’t cut it. Undarra Lava Tubes was definitely an experience of Australian history that everyone should experience just once. Highly recommended tourist location.
Day 21 – Undarra to Mission Beach
Oh my – clouds in the sky. Nasty looking too. We packed up camp and hadn’t quite decided where we were going as we still have a few days up our sleeve. We drove up to Mt Garnet and filled the fuel tanks ($1.23 cpl) and discussed whether we could avoid the rain by heading to the coast or further north and inland which if it did rain would be slippery. We decided to head to the coast and Mission Beach for a couple of nights before Cairns. The Big 4 was right opposite Dunk Island but the clouds were ominous. When we checked in it had been raining and all the camp ground was seriously water logged. The sloshed our way around and set camp before the rains came again.
Day 22 – Mission Beach
Rain rain go away. The morning was showery but I was able to fit a nice run in along Mission Beach between the rain. After breakfast we decided that it would be nice to go for a drive and see the sights so we headed south to Cardwell where we had a coffee on the beach. We drove on back toward camp and turned left before Tulley and headed 20 kms out to the Murray National Park to check out the falls. These turned out to be awesome and loud. Thundering water flowing over the rocks to the river below which was safe for swimming (no crocs). The camp ground at the top was probably the best we have seen so far in QLD. The grass was green, great tree coverage and a location locked in the memory bank next time a trip up the east coast is to be had. This would make a great spot to stop for a few nights. We returned to camp where again the rain continued to fall on and off. Refuge was found within the camp kitchen.
Day 23 – Mission Beach to Cairns
Waking to the sound of rain fall on the roof of your camper is such a relaxing sound until you realize that you will be packing up camp in the rain and all your canvas will be wet and heavy. Oh well – at least it is still 20 degrees. We had an easy morning to have some breakfast, get camped packed and a couple of showers out of the way. We have a drive of 180 kilometers approximately this morning so definitely in no rush knowing that we will be at camp by lunchtime.
The drive to Cairns was easy with plenty of road works taking place. We checked into the Cairns Coconut Big 4 park and set up camp on our site. This was a full set up with Emily and Sam due to arrive on Thursday. We put the family room onto to the camper, made their stretchers and bedding.
The weather was still very overcast but it did not stop us from having a relaxing soak in the spa between showers.
Days 23 to 27 – Cairns
(Wednesday). It’s hot and humid. The rain is falling intermittent and then the sun comes out and let’s you know it’s not cold. We are doing some shopping today and look around the shops in Cairns as out last bit of adult time before the kids fly in tomorrow. We headed into cairns central in the morning and had a brief look around and then got some of the grocery shopping out the way on the was back to camp. The afternoon was spent pottering around camp and over at the spa pool for a relax in the afternoon.
(Thursday). Pancake breakfast morning for free at the resort. They were the biggest and thickest pancakes you could make and I could only manage put three of those bad boys down with lemon and sugar. We went back to camp and before we knew it was time to head to the airport to await the arrival of the kids. Their flight was delayed 1/2 hour and was still raining in Cairns but we were really looking forward to seeing them. By 1 pm they were through the gates in our arms for the next two weeks. Emily arrived with a cold but spirits were high. Despite the overcast weather a play in the pool and spa was still in order.
The next two days saw us cruising around Cairns and the outskirts of the tablelands and up to Mareeba where we checked out some other camping options (Skeewah National Park) for future trips. The weather was nicer in the car and over the tablelands than what we were getting in Cairns. On our return the kids took off with their new made friends and hung out around the pools and entertainment areas only to return when hungry or thirsty.
(Sunday) Today was forecast to be the nicest day so we had booked to do the Kurranda Rail up and the Skyrail down after spending 3 hours around the Kurranda markets. Well the nicest weather doesn’t always happen. It rained. It poured. It kept raining. The rail journey up was fantastic and very enjoyable. Walking around the markets saw us taking cover a few times due to the weather but it was still warm enough for ice creams (of course). Sam again fell in love with Didgeridoos and their sounds. We found a stall where a young aboriginal man took the time to explain and teach Sam how to make a sound and tune. Sam ended up with quite a crowd watching. We caught the Skyrail down from the markets and we really were in the middle of the clouds. At one stage we could not see the gondola behind us or in front of us. The views over the wet tropics and rain forest was huge. A full and exhausting day out was had but despite the weather we really enjoyed the experience.
Day 28 – Cairns to Port Douglas
A morning for Kathy and I in the rain. The Tvan is soaked. We are soaked. Starting to have had a gut full of the wet and humidity. The morning was full of rain and so much of it that it was a very wet and soaking pack up. The kids sought refuge in the camp kitchen as we moved our way around as best as we could.
We headed off at 10.30 am and it rained nearly the whole way to Port Douglas. The roads were slow going and water logged and after 90 minutes we arrived at the Big 4 Glengarry which was as about 3 km for the turn off into Port Douglas.
On checking in the lady at reception allocated us a grass sight at the base of hill. If I stood in the one place long enough my foot disappeared under water. Her husband had shown us the site and grabbed a 30 m extension lead and had thrown in down the hill for our powered site. After 30 minutes of trying to level the camper in the slosh enough was enough. I walked over and selected a large flat grassed site with a power box on it. We had booked this in advance from March and the crap site they had tried to put us on was disgraceful so I let them know. Subsequently they agreed and I moved over to site 132 (great site) which despite the pouring rain was flat and much better. Of note and to my disgust I watched as they tried to put another camper trailer on our previous site despite me explaining the water logged state of it. They too moved and then a third camp was allocate the site. A Maui van this time. A poor reflection on the management of the facility. Once set up was complete, the rain was dispensing and we had showers before heading into Port Douglas for our dinner appointment with Kathy’s school friends Dick and Jane at the Court House Hotel.
Days 29 to 38 – Port Douglas
Time in Port Douglas was going to go quick and we needed to ensure we had plenty of down time by the pool relaxing whilst at the same time being out and about seeing the sites.
Kathy and I were in the pool swimming when I looked at face I thought was familiar. Sure enough it was Marty Bell who has known since I was six years of age growing up with his daughter Vanessa. Marty and his lovely wife Pat were caravanning their way around the north escaping the winter of Melbourne. Not long after Pat arrived at the pool and it’s fair to say and bug surprise was had by all. Afternoon drinks was now set with a catch up (as if we needed an excuse)
On Monday night friends from work, Damian and Janelle came from Cairns to our camp for dinner with their kids. I cooked BBQ hamburgers, sausages and salad for dinner whilst having a beer and great chat about the travels so far. We set a date for 10 July (Monday) to catch up again and do the Bloomfield Track up through the Daintree to the Lions Den Hotel.
Kathy, Emily, Sam and I headed out the next day and explore the Mossman Gorge. We walked out way along the many wet tropic trails through rain forests admiring the ancient
Day 39 – Port Douglas to Palmer Gold Fields
The kids have arrived home safely and it is time for Kathy and I to depart this caravan park style camping. It has been good but we were both ready to go back to the bush and be self sufficient. I woke with a throat from hell. It was dry, sore and feeling very nasty. I knew I was getting sick and most likely what Emily had arrived with. We headed up to Mossman where after a small amount of grocery shopping and stocking up on throat lozenges we headed up over the mountain to Mt Carbine and then I tot he Palmer Gold Fields area. The road inn was 80 km due west from the Cooktown road and followed the summit across mountain ranges. The hills down were very steep with short sharp pitches and the bottom that required all you speed to be washed off which then left you looking straight up the gravel road on the other side of which you now had no momentum to climb. This saw we putting the Patrol in 4wd mode and towing the camper trailer accordingly until we reached a river at the entrance to the gold fields. This was to be our camp for the night and things weren’t looking good for me. I was starting fever and feel cold despite it being sunny and 31 degrees. We set camp and I went a layer on the bed where I slept for the next two hours before dinner. Straight after dinner I slept for another 11 hours and so was to be the course for the next four days with fevers.
Day 40 – Palmer Gold Fields to Mitchell River bush camp
Up and into we went in the morning. It was nice to have a bush camp alone and no one around. We packed up and set off to explore the gold fields. The area is now preserved and you are not allowed to fossil, take or remove anything. The area is Australia’s most successful alluvial gold areas ever discovered and was extensively mined and fossicked from1870 to about 1908. It saw the now ghost town of Maytown be formed which housed three Hotels, Bakers, butchers, Chinese and their shops, a police station and court house. Nothing remains today except the Main Street which was the centre of activity on a time gone by.
With the Tvan in tow and low range engaged on the 4wd we climbed up and over mountains exploring old dig sites and mine sites, rubble piles and old machinery that was associate with a gold rush. The stamps and boilers to power everything still remain in situ and it was an awesome reflection back in time. Hot dry environment and a tough life to make your mark and hopefully strike it rich in gold. After spending half a day exploring, driving around spinifex fires we needed to drive out. All the maps showed that the road in yesterday was one of three options. Another was an 8 hour drive out of which the most would of been in low range gearing and the third was indicTed on our maps as a restricted access / private road. So after flicking through a few maps we found one with option three not marked restricted – there we go that’ll do we thought. We drove out via the now non restricted road and reached a cattle station on the Mitchell River at the Ford crossing. There was enough room to drive along the river through the melaleuca trees for the Tvan. This was to be camp for the night. With body and mind exhausted we set camp and I went to sleep whilst Kathy relaxed, swam and explored the river. A very nice free camp.
Day 41 – Mitchell River to Innot Hot Springs
A beautiful morning waking to the sound of running water cascading down the river and past camp. I’m still not well having a fever and no appetite. Not a good environment to be in as we are quite remote and out of civilization. We packed up camp and drove out toward to the Burke Development Road which was a pleasant and easy drive how illness has now taken me and I am already fatigued and tired. I needed to get Kathy to drive the Patrol for the first time on this trip and with 80 kilometers to Chillagoe I could rest (even though I had a full nights sleep). We pulled in to town before lunch and this is where we were meant to be staying for the next couple of days as we go caving it wasn’t to be. I physically could not have done the caving. We decided to drive to the Innot Hot Springs and seek a site there for a night or two as I shake down the fevers and start recover. We arrived early afternoon, grabbed an unpowered site and proceeded to sit in the springs for the next two hours warming my core. We were both really disappointed with the lack of cleanliness at this van park as we had been here three years earlier and they were magnificent. Still the water was hot and it was only a night.
Day 42 – Innot Hot Springs to Croydon
Taking our time this morning we hit the road at 10 am not knowing how far we would drive or where we would make it to. I’m feeling a little better and the fever seems to have broken. We drove via Mt Garnet again and filled the tanks and jerry cans with the fuel ($1.23 cpl) as this was still the cheapest we had found in our travels. We drove down to Mt Surprise by lunch time and whilst standing there we found out that the Croydon Rodeo Grounds were open to campers at $5 for 48 hours with hot showers and flushing toilets. Value plus and the nights destination was set. We headed west driving at a nice 80 to 90 kilometers per hour with no rush in our system. We reached the town information centre, bought our $5 camp permit and up to the grounds it was. A nice day driving and I’m feeling a little better as time was going by but I still needed a sleep once camp was set. This was good camp location with great facilities.
Day 43 – Croydon
Not going anywhere today and I woke at 5 am hungry. The first time in four days I feel I need to eat and yoghurt was in my brain. So I laid there thinking of the cold breakfast I was going to have at the supermarket in town and by 7 am I was up and about. Yep I feel better.
Kathy and I went in to town and I bought my breakfast yoghurt which was devine, some fresh bread and walked the town. They had opened up the historic sites and some of the buildings with information boards. What a fascinating town, history and folk lore. The man bequeathed 40,000£ to hospital to build a men’s ward and 1£ to his wife to buy some rope. There there was the jailing of some for 7 days in 1902 at the local court for swearing and drunkeness which was the same penalty the Chinese received for lacing the food of their workers with opiates to get them addicted and keep them returning to work each day. Kathy and I both commented that the initiative of the local town keeping the tourists in and opening the historical sites meant a chance of survival for a country location.
We drove over to the local lake where we sat by the water and talked, eating some peanut butter sandwiches and relaxing before heading back to the camp for the afternoon of lying around. Damn it was hot hot hot! We found spots in the shade and laid on the ground trying to keep cool. It was certainly one of the hottest days we had so far.
Later that night I received an email from a former neighbour who is a retired friend traveling with his wife – Rob and Jill. They were in Burketown and heading to a free camp 25 km out at Beamesbrook the next day in case we were in the area. I sent a reply and our next nights destination was set – easy.
Day 44 – Croydon to Beamesbrook (river camp)
I’m better! I woke feeling about 80% and hungry again but Kathy hasn’t stopped sneezing for 24 hours. So it appears she has a cold but no flu or fevers thankfully.
We took our time a little to much this morning before we got going and headed off. Never mind we are in holiday mode. A message to Rob to say we will get there at some time in the afternoon before setting off across the Savannah Way toward Burketown. A very easy day of driving saw us reach Normanton by lunchtime but Kathy’s sneezing was getting worse. The only chemist in town had closed its doors and we needed antihistamines so we headed to the hospital. Service was quick and prompt but the nurse attending to us seemed as if she had been sampling some products. Blood pressure taken three times, couldn’t find anything, would just get up and walk off only to return after five minutes having no idea where she was up to. Yep she oozed confidence – NOT! So after nearly 50 minutes we ended up establishing that she had no antihistamines to give Kathy and there was no virus.
On the outskirts of Normanton township we reached camp 119 being the most Northerly camp of the Burke and Wills expedition. We did a short stop and did the tourist thing as we have come so far not to stop. The sun was so hot and burning as we walked the track to the site of their camp you could only imagine how hard it was for them.
We drove on west reaching Liechart Falls where we stopped for a look at the camping and scenery for future reference. Very hot and exposed yet very nice and the wildlife around the river would be amazing. Need to be fully self sufficient for this location.
Lastly we reached Burketown and following the instructions provided we drove straight through town for 25 km reaching the Beamesbrook bridge where Rob and Jill were camped. We made it and what a fabulous free camp location.
Days 45 and 46 – Beamesbrook
Camp is located of a flowing river of fresh water. There river is shaded with a natural canopy of trees and Pandanus Palms and it looks very crocodile friendly however we could see the bottom. Rob and Jill headed off for a day out whilst Kathy and I decided a day of no driving is what we both needed. So we set about cleaning the dust out of the car, repack some clothes and tubs, sorting food and doing some hand washing. This took until lunchtime after which we decided to take some chill out time sitting by the river. A super relaxing day finished off with an afternoon drink with Rob and Jill and a great campfire cook up for dinner. A night talking with friends about travels and all things in general. So good was this campsite that a very easy decision was made that another day / night was in order and Rob and Jill needed no convincing to stay too.
Next morning was magnificent and Kathy is starting to get better. Rob had found a couple of Telfast tablets that was just as required and they had the right effect. We all headed off for a drive into Burketown to make some calls, check some emails and of course, pay some bills. Some local bakery food consisting of pies and sausage rolls was in order, after all we need to support the local economy. Kathy and I drove up to the Rodeo grounds where the hot showers were open and operating for free. Beats our camp shower anyday which I don’t mind saying is pretty good after a hot day out.
We all went for drive after town checking out the old town bore which has a calcium type build up on the sides of it and with it still flowing out at over 50 degrees Celsius provides quite a cool sight in addition to creating a permanent wet land for wildlife. Another drive out to another potential future campsite saw us come across some fresh road kill of which a huge Sea Eagle was busy devouring. We stopped whilst I tried to get a few photos of this magnificent bird.
The rest of the afternoon was spent pottering around camp and chatting with Rob and Jill. It sure was nice to camp with friends for a few days which is very rare in my travels and they were so easy to camp with. Rob estimated that he had 50 years of traveling and camping behind him so I was able to glean some of his knowledge bank.
Day 47 – Beamesbrook to Robinson River camp.
It’s pack up morning and unfortunately time to leave this great little spot. I could honestly spend a week camped here in almost a perfect environment. Rob and Jill are heading the same way as us so it was decided that we would travel together and spend another night at camp together after which we are due to go in different directions.
We headed off at 9 am and reached the town of Doomadgee which is an Aboriginal community with a service station that is also the supermarket and takeaway food shop. Very clean, professional and inviting. We got talking to some local indigenous kids who were riding a small bike with no front tyre, no seat, flat rear tyre and tiny in size. They were so engaging. One was telling me they were off to catch a Goanna for dinner. He was busy telling me how he holds it so it doesn’t bite him and whilst doing so his little mate says, “I just whack him on the head”. So matter of fact!
Lunch was Hells Gate so named as this was where the police escort would finish and you were on your own for survival from Aboriginal attack until Katherine which was over 700 kilometers away. We were about 50 kilometers from the the Northern Territory border and 320 kilometers from the next fuel stop.
After lunch we headed off with Kathy and I moving at a faster pace than Rob and Jill who were towing a large caravan. We had arranged to meet at the Robinson River free camp and we were going to get in early to secure a site as there are only four. Just as well too as on reaching camp and grabbing a site another car and van pulled in 15 minutes later and before Rob and Jill arrived. These were large sites so a shared camp fire for our last night of traveling with friends. Kathy is getting better now and is only left with a nasty raspy cough.
Day 48 – Robinson River to King Ash Bay (Fishing Club)
Goodbye Rob and Jill – safe travels. It was farewells after four nights camping together and time to go our own ways and continue on. We were only about 107 km from Borroloola which was where we would get a couple of grocery items and top the fuel tanks and then another 40 km approximately from King Ash Bay.
We arrived at King Ash Bay by lunchtime and we were able to get a spot backing onto the Macathur River. It is a shame that such a beautiful river on a 34 degree day is inhabited by crocodiles. A snappy set up, we had some lunch before heading off up into the long grass to meet up with some other great neighbors of ours – John and Helen. Catching up with friends during travels is great and being able to sit around, relaxed, out doors and have a brew or beer is pretty damn good. We had dinner at the sporting club tonight as $15 meals and half price beer is a bargain in my books.
Days 49 to 51 – King Ash Bay
We only bought two nights here at King Ash Bay but it was decided that after all the driving already done it was time for us to sit and relax, do the odd day trip and then some more relaxing. This is a good spot to do that from so an additional two nights were paid for. This means we could sit for three full days.
We did a day trip up to Bing Bong loading facility which is on the Gulf where mainland meets the water. First we had to negotiate the fires that were burning along the road as result of black lightening. A drive around to the Mule boat ramp where one of the main rivers flows with tide out to sea and Kathy went for a walk on one of our pristine and unpopulated beaches. Another 34 degree day which saw the afternoon spent in the shade at camp.
On arriving back at camp there was a sign advertising $15 roasts at the Sporting Club and again I needed no convincing. Roast Beef it was with a sprinkle of salt on the spuds and I was in heaven.
Our last day relaxing we went up to John and Helens camp mid morning and had a cuppa coffee under the shade of their awning. We were invited back for drinks and homemade pizzas for dinner. Kathy and I were supply deserve which was apricots and cold custard. Tough life eating camp food. The pizzas were delicious as was desert. We said our good byes until home and it was back to camp.
Day 52 – King Ash Bay to the Southern Lost City
What the? Fog! Heaps of it! Why on the morning when you plan to break camp and he’d off do you get a fog so thick that you cannot see the river behind camp. Everything was soaking wet and it was so thick that it was not lifting anytime soon. We ended up packing things up wet as we were left with little choice.
We drove back out through Borroloola and headed west along the Savannah Way for about 150 kms before arriving at the Southern Lost City. This was camp for the night so we set up and sat in the shade waiting for the right time to go and do the hike through the 1500 million year old limestone marine reef. The hike, views and limestone structures were spectacular.
Camp showers and dinner before retreating inside the Tvan as there were a few mozzies hanging around. This is one of my favorite areas within Australia which has seen me returning a fourth time. The old ancient Australia.
Day 53 – Southern Lost City to Lorella Springs
Fog again? I have never experienced fog up here in the Gulf of Carpenteria before but I a, certainly getting my fair share now. A super easy morning as we need to drive 20 km down the road before turning into Lorella Sp rings Station which is 32 km from the Savannah Way. Our plan is to have three days relaxing on the one million acre property with swimming in the hot springs as needed throughout the days. As we have been here before and explore the property we are not even planning on doing this as we think this will be our last days of total relax before we head south for the winter. Well two weeks of Melbourne winter anyway.
We arrived at 11 am set up a full camp, had some lunch and headed off to the Nudie Hot Springs which were a 20 km drive from camp. Of course nothing went smoothly coming across another traveller with a distressed wife. They were bogged to the axels, the sun was piercingly hot with no shade. The soft powder sands were even hot to stand on. So after. Area tempts to dig him out it was time to recover him with the snack strap. One Two Three – pop and out he came. 25 mins it the sun took its toll as I was very hot and the springs were a constant 40 degrees. Lots of water and a little dehydrated but still a very pleasant swim in a little spring amongst the Pandanus Palms in the middle of the bush. Perfect!
Back at camp in the afternoon the cold beer was well received and a relaxing evening at camp.
Day 54 and 55 – Lorella Springs
Sleep in time with nothing planned for the day except reading a magazine and few swims in the hot spring at the main camp ground. This spring is a constant 30 degrees and totally in the shade of palms and trees. A very warm but refreshing swim location. Hmmm 7.30 am and wide awake. Never mind as the weather is magnificent with 31 degrees for the day. We cleaned up around the camper with some maintenance before having our first swim of two for the day. We didn’t drive anywhere and just relaxed around camp until happy hour at the Homestead where another couple of beers were devoured.
The next day was just the same as the day before with a bit of hand washing done and a few swims in the spring until the bell rang for happy hour. Where does a day go with such good weather in a bush environment. I am feeling very relaxed knowing that the drive south begins tomorrow.
Day 56 – Lorella Springs to Barkly Homestead via Cape Crawford
After a couple of magnificent mornings where we woke to the sun shining on our faces today is pack up day and guess what – FOG! Arghhh! We had breakfast and waited for the auto come out knowing that it will only take 15 minutes to dry the sail and tent but no we couldn’t even get that. A damp pack up it was to be which means we will need to get the Sail and Ensuite out to dry somewhere in the next few days.
There was nothing exciting about today as it is the first day of the south bound decent toward home. We still have 11 days before we are due back but the roads are long and some of them boring. We decided that we would drive 138 km off the Savannah Way to Cape Crawford and pick up the Tablelands Hwy down to the Barkly Homestead. I topped up the fuel tank at Cape Crawford (1.79 cpl) to ensure we had plenty for the drive ahead. There were a couple of free camps on the way but they were dry and dusty with nothing interesting to look at so we decided the air conditioning of the car was a better option. In total we drove 425 km south today so the night was cooler. We camped at the Barkly Homestead expecting to be able to buy milk of some description but no that was not to be. We were out of milk, bread and eggs – the staples of camping so only one night it was to be. The unpowered site was $24 and the amenities were clean so not a bad option.
Day 57 – Barkly Homestead to Mt Isa
Wow the wind is in and blowing a fair gale. Red dust everywhere across camp with a coolness to it. Kathy could not get the kettle boiled due to the wind and I had to settle for a $5 flat white from the Homestead as no milk for my coffee.
We packed camp, had some showers and headed east toward Mt Isa. The drive across to the QLD border was with a strong cross wind most of the way. We drove into Camooweal where I topped the fuel tank up (1.52 cpl) whilst Kathy went and got some fresh bread, milk and eggs. We were back in business and could survive for days again (and I could make a real cup of coffee). We drove down the side of bridge onto the river falls and picked a nice spot amongst the tress and Brolgas for lunch before continuing east bound. The day was still early and the water in the river was muddy so we decided not to camp for the night. We found another road side free camp 50 km before reaching Mt Isa which was filling up with the grey nomad brigade. Hmmm – I’m starting (or advanced) to fit the picture. In all this was a neat little free camp with some toilets that were reasonably clean considering the amount of traffic that would see.
Day 58 – Mt Isa to Clem Walter Reserve
The night sleep was reasonably good considering we were camped near the Barkly Hwy and the mining trucks traversing through the night. All caravaners were respectful of each other and no one made noise before 7 am. After some breakfast we headed into Mt Isa and straight to the information centre as we had heard there was a rodeo on it Cloncurry next weekend and we wanted some information. Once we had confirmed this Kathy rang ahead and found us a caravan park for three nights so we could get our cowboy on and attend my first rodeo. Yee Ha! We also made some enquiries about Clem Walter Reserve that Rob and Jill told us about on to the way to Cloncurry. We confirmed this was a free permitted camp spot between Mt Isa and Cloncurry. We got some additional information about the Mary Kathleen ghost town and surrounding things to see before heading south east.
About 60 kilometres out of Mt Isa we reached the turn off into the Clem Walter Reserve, following the instructions given we drove down to the most magnificent campsite next to a really nice couple, Noel and Judy. They welcomed us to camp next to them and with the view and location we could not say no. So it was – we set camp and set about relaxing for a couple of nights. The scenery and location are in the top 5 of this trip. Bloody awesome!
Day 59 and 60 – Clem Walter Reserve
What a wonderful location (providing you have waterfront) to wake up to. The morning was perfect. No wind, plenty of sun and ducks swimming past camp. We have decided to ring Cloncurry caravan park and cancel our Thursday arrival until Friday so we can spend another free night here. An easy decision really.
We went for a drive back to Mt Isa for a shower part, fuel and some bits an pieces that we didn’t get yesterday.
On out return we turned left into the historic town of Mary Kathleen. This was an architectural designed estate which had 1000 residents and was created I the 50s as result of Uranium being found and mined. Rio Tinto established the town which in 1984 who the mine closed the entire town and all its buildings were sold and relocated. All that remained was bitumen streets and house slabs with not a single structure on them. The area is starting to fall into disrepair and I cannot see anyone fixing roads and bridges once they are gone. We drove around the dirt roads spotting another camel before we found the mine site cut into the side of a mountain. It looked fantastic and the water in the bottom was so blue.
We returned to camp for lunch and later in the afternoon went out with Noel in his tinny to check the traps for red claw (yabbies). The dam was so much bigger than we realised or thought. A fresh water crocodile was spotted sunny itself in the muddy shoreline and the bird life was amazing.
The next morning we headed out early to find and explore the historic mining towns of Bulonga and Ballara that were established 99 years ago. We explored up the mountain in 4wd to find the old mine sites. The ground was scattered with rocks with oxidised copper on the surface and quartz stone. On turning a piece of Quartz over the rock had lots of gold (or copper) in the stone. We drove around the mining roads and headed down to Fountain Springs for a look. This was very nice but not an ideal place to camp.
We returned to camp for lunch only to find the sail was down and placed inside the camper by Noel as the wind had picked up strongly and it was flapping all over the place. The wind had been strong since about 2 am so I set about packing it up. A relaxing afternoon again was had with our neighbours Noel and Judy and a few more beers.
Day 61 – Clem Walter to Cloncurry
The wind is again blowing and it’s cold. The kettle was even feeling it this morning taking extra time to boil. Our day consisted of driving 50 km to the town of Cloncurry. We said our good byes to new friends and headed off around 10 am. We stopped at another Burke and Wills campsite on our way.
Once in Cloncurry we set up camp, went down the Main Street and topped up the fresh fruit and veggies enforce heading out in the late afternoon to the Curry Muster Rodeo. My first time at a rodeo and I really did not know what to expect. We sat with a retired couple of travellers who follow the rodeo circuit and they explained the rules and objectives to us which was an enormous help to understand what was happening. We had a great night watching the Cowboys and cowgirls riding the Bulls, lassoing the calves and racing around the drums.
Day 62 – Cloncurry
Another day of rodeo action planned for the day. We sorted our camp out I t he morning and headed off to be at the rodeo by 11 am. I topped the fuel up ($1.25 cpl) for tomorrow and made sure the tyres and vehicle were ready for the so.id driving that awaits.
We arrived at the rodeo on time and sat. About watching the next 5 1/2 hours of rodeo action whilst both admiring the dress of the Cowboys and cowgirls. Young and old they were immaculate in appearance. Smart styled Long sleeved shirts were all tucked into Wrangler jeans that were dusty at the bottom over the top of worn boots (some with Spurs). All the jeans were adorned with belts. The men had leather with a large buckle at the front whilst the women wore specific belts with bling and the same style buckles as the men. Broad brimmed cowboy hats perfectly worn by everyone. So much style and dress sense and as one senior lady advised, “it’s a lifestyle”. YeeHa! We had a great day and fantastic new experience was had.
Day 63 – Cloncurry to Balcarldine (Lara Cattle Station)
Oh well – all good things must come to an end and today is the time we head south. We had set the alarms for 6.30 am so we could be on the road driving by 8.00 a.m. We got away on time and the big days of driving home have begun. The weather is good to us being not to hot and there is no signs of rain ahead. We had no set destination plans of where to stop for the night so it really was just seeing how far we could get towards home. In saying that we did hear about a cattle station stay called ‘Lara’ which was meant to be 26 kms south of Balcarldine which is reported to have a natural hot spring to soak in.
The drive for today was good with not a lot of traffic and cruising at about 95 kmh saw us make really good distances. We got to within a 128 kms of where this camp called Lara was supposed to be and a quick check of Wiki Camps sealed our decision. All good reports were listed so we pushed on to there as our preferred stop for the night. We arrived around 4 pm and on reaching the camp hosts we were greeted by a total surprise. The camp location was set around a natural wetland full of bird life. The hot spring which has a pool to soak in overflows and feeds the lake. The cost was $20 for the night with a pick an area to camp and relax. No set sights and a huge property that bookings would not be needed. There was a camp kitchen provided and toilets with hot showers. They even had canoes for free to take and explore the wetlands and birdlife.
We set camp, got into the bathers and headed straight to the hot spring for a needed relaxing soak. The water was about 35 degrees constant and up to about 39 degrees where it flowed into the pool. We stayed there until the sun was almost gone where we felt we had better get out and have some dinner.
Day 64 – Balcarldine to Charleville
Wake up time was again early this morning but more due to the sound of the birds. We were greeted by a blue sky that was a little fresh but not cold. Kathy took off with the camera to take photos of some of the ducks, birds and other critters that were sharing our camp. We had time on our side from the extra distance covered yesterday that we felt there is no rush. We knew that Charleville will be our camp for the night as the distance from there to a suitable camp south was just to far. After photos and breakfast we hit the road knowing that we will return to this unexpected oasis but next time 3 days will be time frame.
The drive to Charleville turned out the longer than expected with all the kangaroos and emus that wanted to walk and hop out in front of the car without notice. This was driving on the edge of your set stuff as the numbers were huge and when towing at 90 kmh you certainly don’t want to be swerving around the place. Despite the nerve wrecking they cause I do enjoy seeing them in the outback as it signifies what Australia is depicted as being.
We arrived in Charleville and the camp location / caravan park that we had picked really wasn’t interested in hosting anyone. I guess if no one stays then the manager / caretaker has less cleaning to do. We were recommended another caravan park which was a couple of years old at the end of town on the river so we headed for this one. Again you can get lucky in life – it was beautiful but full. We ended up scoring an overflow powered site which wasn’t very big but as we wanted to run the heater it was all that was left. The caravan park had the most amazing showers and amenities that were spotless, a huge camp kitchen, community open fire that was big enough to burn half a tree and green grass. As the evening set in the park filled with Eastern Grey Kangaroos (50 +) which some were taller than me and quite intimidating. This was a great caravan park and again another we will stay at on future travels and recommend to our friends.
Day 65 – Charleville to Hillston
Brrrr – that was a cold night that saw the little heater running all night (the reason we wanted a powered site). Im glad I was able to fix it last night as it ran for a moment and then stopped. It appear the trip switch inside is starting to die and getting a bit intermittent with its operation. The camper trailer was covered in ice as was the roof of the Patrol. Open air breakfast was brisk and a hot shower to warm the bones for the day was needed.
We set off just before the majority of the caravaners and pushed on due south. We were aiming for Cobar but secretly I was hoping for great conditions that would see us reach the town of Hillston (NSW). We drove south and crossed the border from Queensland into New South Wales before 10 am and our next destination was set for Bourke. Driving down the black bitumen road with the red coloured sand shoulders dotted with golden yellow and green spinifex grass was very picturesque. Still you needed to be on guard to at least the township of Bourke as the roos and emus were still present and the amount of road kill from the night before was a telling tale of why we never drive from dusk to dawn.
We made it to the town of Hillston which saw us within three hours of Victoria setting us up for a relaxing end to the holiday for the last two days of driving. The council owned and operated caravan park had been slightly renovated since I had last stayed there with the camp sites cleaned, grassed and increased in size. The amenities block was still the same 1970 style without any modernising at all but they were clean. It was really cold in the evening and again you could feel the frost and ice not far away. We were lazy tonight and walked next door to the local diner for Fish and Chips which was a mistake. After all this time with hardly any deep fried food it tasted very average and the feeling left in your stomach was one of knowing that you will pay later.
The little heater was working overtime trying to keep the camper warm for us until it just could do it anymore. Yep it died. I tried everything to revive it for at least two more nights but this was not to be. Time had come to put the beanie back on and sleep in socks and t-shirts again.
Day 66 – Hillston to Cobram
Damn that was fresh – brrrrr! I woke to a very cold face and nose and knew outside it was going to be icy. The camper and car were again covered in ice but the sky was blue and no rain so we were happy. Plenty of time this morning but it was so cold we didn’t really mess around knowing that the car and heater would be a warmer environment for us.
We drove south with the feeling that it was coming to an end and reached Tocumwal by lunchtime. We bought some fresh country bakery bread and fresh salads and headed to the Murray River for lunch. We knew we were within 4 to 5 hours of home and discussed the options of whether to drive home or stay another night out. As our house / dog sitter Tracey was expecting us home until tomorrow we decided that after this length of time one more night out wont hurt us and then we could avoid peak hour traffic also. After lunch we drove over to Cobram and decided we will get a powered camp site and go into town and try to find a safe heater for the camper trailer. We ended up at the RACV Resort caravan park (not much of a resort) and Kathy decided that instead of setting up camp and going into town to find a heater to buy she would rent a cabin with a real bed, shower and tv. We still had food and didn’t need to go out and get anything so it was very nice to park the camper, leave it attached to the car and relax inside a cabin out of the cold and wind.
A simple home style cooked meal in the cabin kitchen and a sleep in a bed that someone else would need to make the next day was a great way to end the holiday.
Day 67 – Cobram to Home sweet home
Well what can I say! A great sleep, morning showers, breakfast and the camper is still hooked on ready to drive away. No need to get dirty and dusty connecting it nor was there a need to have breakfast outside in the cold. We both slept like logs and felt refreshed and recharged for the final 400 kms to home.
The drive was relaxed and a couple of hours in the iPod was turned off and the radio was back and pumping out new tunes. We had timed our drive so we would be after the morning peak and before the afternoon city peak hour traffic so it was an easy drive home seeing us arrive around 12.30 pm.
We had driven a total