Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Post Flood

Well, we are nearly back to normal, although there are still plenty of finishing up things to be done and the list of minor improvements to the van is slowly being attended to.

The water is nearly all gone and we appear to have lost most of our lake frontage but with the receding waters we are able to appreciate how lush and green all the parks and gardens are. We have just managed today to mow the back lawqn which is still quite waterlogged.

So here are the photos as promised of the afters. The fence shows how high the water came and the debris which became improsoned upon it. The council workers were just removing it today so I quickly took a photo to remember how high it had been.

Now its only one month until Kate and Warwick have their baby so I my just sneak a photo or two up when that happens!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Home Sweet Home!

After our last blog we travelled onto Hahndorf and experienced another day of rain after which we decided there was no future in hanging around waiting for better weather and besides which the news from home was getting soggier by the minute.
So off we went and stopped the night just out of Mildura from where we travelled home not really sure if we could get the van in. Thanks to our trusty CFA friend Ray we were able to get in only to find that the road was closing shortly thereafter and that we would have to stay put for a while. Not a problem as we had plenty to do and plenty of action out the front as we have now acquired a lake frontage which would be an excellent selling point if we could only have open days where people could actually get in!
The water rose overnight but has now begun to subside and the TV crews have gone on to look for something more exciting to cover. Our caravan sits proudly on the nature strip and has featured in a number of broadcasts so we have had our moment of fame. It was not exactly how we wanted to finish our holiday but we were spoilt over the last four months and have nothing to complain about.
Just a few pics of our house taken yesterday and this morning. We’ll post again when the water subsides so you can see how we look after.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Shelter from the Storm

Boy oh boy what a day! We set out from Peterborough after a really wild night of wind and rain hoping for some improvement as we travelled on to Burra which looked lovely on the internet and somewhere we would like to spend some time.
Yes, well we would have had we came on a reasonable day when we could see where we were going. The drive was at the upper limit of driving as the van was being buffeted by the wind and the rain was getting heavier as we drove on. When we reached Burra we decided enough was enough as even Ian was feeling less than comfortable. We stopped in the caravan park for a very reasonable tariff of $20.00, actually they could have charged twice that much and we would have still stayed.
We quickly pulled in without unhitching the van, put out the electric cable and connected the water hose and retreated into the van with the heater turned on. The wind is still buffeting the van but at least we’re not on the road for now. We think we’ll stay put for at least a day and see what the morning brings. As we sit in the van we watch more vans pulling in obviously with the same thoughts.
We’ve checked the Roads guide on the internet and from the news today we can see that all the roads we used are closed behind us and are very grateful that we can go home via bitumen roads.
Our photos are a convoy of old army jeeps which pulled into our camp at Copley and set up just in front of us and looked quite unique in comparison to all the rest of the caravans and campers and also a photo of our wet and bedraggled camp at Burra.
PS. After I wrote the initial blog today we lost the heating and the television as South Australia is losing the battle to keep the electricity running in the severe storms we are experiencing. At least ten vans have been turned away during the afternoon and a large tree branch has fallen on a van site, luckily no-one was injured but it did turn our thoughts back to another windy holiday we had and Ian did request a site without a tree this time!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Leaving for Home?

After our fantastic day including our helicopter flight we faced a dilemma. We still have time before our anticipated arrival home sometime in the next two weeks or so but where to go? We have been watching the weather really carefully over the past few days because we knew there was a small window of opportunity to ensure we were able to get to Marree for our flight and probably more importantly get back as we knew the gravel roads would close if the rain came as forecast.
How lucky were we! We had tossed up returning to Grass Wren at Willow Springs in the Flinders but after a night with ferocious wind and waking to see that the van, despite having the wheels chocked had managed to move slightly and the sky looking just OK we decided to make our way to Hawker and then have a think about where to go from there as the track in to Grass Wren would not be possible with the van if there was rain as the van is not 4 wheel drive equipped, though now I’m up for a lot more challenges, just not the impossible!
When we left our camp at Copley it was 28 degrees and we were in shorts and t-shirts, yes we know you’re all freezing, well so are we as we watched the temperature drop down to about 10 degrees and back to tracksuits and long sleeves.
The bitumen road from Leigh Creek to Hawker which we came down on this morning is now closed as is the gravel road we travelled on from Copley to Marree. We certainly picked the best day and Ian says it was all just chance that we went yesterday. I think we must have been meant to go and I know how disappointed we would have been if we had missed out. All the people who travelled the Birdsville Track for the Birdsville Races this weekend will have a longer weekend than they planned, as the Birdsville Track is now closed.
All of this led us to stopping in Peterborough in a caravan park as it is cold and very wet and there is only one free camp nearby which we are not familiar with so better safe than sorry for which we are pleased as the park is nearly full.
So now after considering the Bureau of Meteorology web site and seeing the state of the incoming weather we think we will probably be taking a fairly conventional route home, but not yet decided ….. of course!!!
Our photos today are of the old Farina Homestead, one of many building like this which we have seen on the road to Marree and also these beautiful desert flowers.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Lake Eyre

Today we went on our much anticipated, and once in a lifetime, flight over Lake Eyre with water in it – and it didn’t disappoint at all. At great expense to the management we took a 2 hour flight with Phillip Island Helicopters, but caught the chopper from Marree which is at the south end of the Birdsville and Innamincka Tracks.
Marree is a small town which was for some time the head of the Ghan railway line from Adelaide before it went all the way to Alice Springs, and ultimately Darwin. When the standard gauge railway was built, it went by a different route which did not include Marree or many other small towns on the original route and they subsequently declined considerably. It was also the home base of Tom Kruse who was the renowned Birdsville mailman for so many years, including a few in this truck before there was even a semi serious road.
We headed off from Marree in a generally north westerly direction past Lake Eyre South, which is not generally filled from the north but from other rivers generally coming from the south, although when Lake Eyre North gets very full some water does flow into the other lake. The lakes are about 15 m below sea level, and are about 9 times more salty than sea water and often have a pink tone due to the presence of an algae. After checking out Madigan Gulf, the site of Donald Campbell’s world record land speed record, we headed off towards where the Cooper Creek enters the lake, and followed it back to where the Birdsville Track crosses the Cooper Creek via a punt. It has been a particularly busy few days for the ferry operator as the Birdsville Races are on this weekend, and there have only been a very few years when flooding in the creek has coincided with the races. The real challenge may come after the races as there is considerable rain forecast for the next few days, and how some people are going to get home after a longer than anticipated stay in Birdsville will be interesting.
Whilst the birdlife in the Cooper Creek was not as obvious as we had anticipated, it was a very impressive site and well worth the trip. An item off our Bucket List and a great day all around.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Walking in the Flinders

Part V
After our huge gastronomic experience we decided that a walk was in order for our last day and set off to walk around within Wilpena Pound itself. We settled on the walk to Hills Homestead which is just over 3kms from the Tourist office. The homestead was settled in the 1800’s and was run by five of the Hills children whilst their father and mother ran another homestead some distance (about 100 km’s) away. The boys were looked after by their 12 year old sister Jessie who was sent by her parents to care for them. What an experience it must have been for the poor girl. At the restored homestead there are details of how she and her brothers tried to make a profitable living on the holding through flood and drought, trying grazing and then cropping. There are details of the children joining the rest of the family at their parents’ property for Christmas during a drought and praying for rain. Rain they did get, but there was so much rain that when Jessie and the boys returned to the farm all the roads they had worked so hard to put in place to facilitate taking their grain crop to market were washed away. So no more cropping was to be attempted.
Finally after her father died all but one of the boys left the property and Jessie went to live with one of her sisters where I hope she had a better life than she would have endured on the station. There was also a magnificent carving of Indigenous men and that is the photo.
Our next stop will be back down to Hawker and then up to Lyndhurst ready for our exciting flight in a helicopter over Lake Eyre.

Feral Food in the Flinders

Part IV
We went for another drive, this time not quite as challenging as the Skytrek but nonetheless exciting. This time we drove from Wilpena to Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge and up to Parachilna. The scenery through the Gorges was magnificent and we noticed the changes in the rock formations as we passed through them.
The drive up to Parachilna took us until lunchtime having started our journey at 8.30am. We had been told that the pub at Parachilna served Feral Food if we were interested and as we enjoy a culinary challenge we decided to have a try. The Prairie Pub is amazing, being the only building in Parachilna and has accommodation within the hotel and also some ‘overflow’ in ex railway relocatable huts. Within the hotel itself is an amazing gallery of Indigenous artwork which is always stunning and changes depending on which area you are in. If only we had a bigger house with huge established ceilings it would be really tempting. The Hotel has also been rated amongst the top 100 eateries by Gourmet Traveller. From the extensive feral menu ranging from burgers of emu, roo, goat and camel to deserts from local fruits the decision making became all too hard and we decided on the “Feral Feast”. What a feast it was. We began with antipasto consisting of emu pate, goats cheese, kangaroo pastrami and salami, served with a delicious wild tomato pickle and damper. That was just the beginning. I think at that point we realised dinner was not going to be necessary as there was two more courses yet to come. Our main mean consisted of a large plate to share of kangaroo so tasty it just melted in the mouth, camel sausage and fillet mignon of emu served with mashed potato, roasted tomato and gravy. The dessert which we didn’t need but consumed, was a quondong pie accompanied by vanilla bean ice-cream, and (Ian’s favourite!) panna cotta with stewed nectarine with lemon myrtle and other flavours which were completely new to us but magnificent. The publican suggested we might like to take a room to recover but we soldiered on without having coffee - impossible to fit in. I would like to ask if a hotel in the middle of nowhere can serve such a meal …… what’s wrong with everyone else. There were thirty at least also enjoying lunch on a Monday so that’s pretty good for any pub I would think!
We journeyed back via Glass Gorge, Blinman, the Great Wall of China to home after another beautiful day with lovely though cool weather.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Flinders Ranges Part III

On Sunday we confirmed with our hosts that we would be staying another night and set off to explore Wilpena Pound, first taking a walk through Sacred Canyon taking in some more Aboriginal Engravings and some magnificent slate walls of the Canyon.
Then we were off to the Old Wilpena Homestead to explore how the first settlers there spent their lives. Whilst it looks very romantic, at various points throughout there are reminders of what a tough life it was for everyone. At one hut there are detailed instructions about how to built a slab hut finishing with the advice not to put a lock on the door because ‘you will already have your hat on and the tobacco in your pocket’ implying that the most valuable possessions you have will always be with you.
The women certainly had their share of trials providing for their families and I suspect some wondered what had possessed them to come in the first place. It is recorded by one visitor to the station that the lady of the homestead had boiled some eggs, placed the remaining water in a saucepan lid and scrubbed her six sons with the water and then had some left to give water to the chickens. I bet those boys knew they had been ‘scrubbed’! Droughts and floods often deprived them of their prosperity and forced them to start again as there was no alternative and I guess everyone was in the same boat at the same time so burdens were shared.
The trees within the station are just amazing and some have been here since the station was settled. Ian is standing in front of one such tree which bordered the original cattle yards.

Flinders Ranges Part II

At Mt. Caernarvon cairn there is a book to write comments in, and a family who had visited a couple of days before us reported that “mum only closed her eyes a few times!” I’m sure this mum will be reminded of that for years to come and we wondered how she coped with the rest of the trip as there were a number of ‘challenging’ areas still ahead as we discovered.
The trip was very carefully charted with kilometre readings pointing to the many features along the way including the Bunkers Reserve which is a private protected area purchased by the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby Preservation .We were disappointed to only see one Rock Wallaby but felt compensated with the family of emu’s and many Euros or Hills kangaroos and birds we saw along the way.
The country is just so magnificent none of our photos will do it justice and we just kept stopping and looking which is probably why the trip took us from 9am until 5pm – 8 hours when in the accompanying notes suggest a total of 5-6 hours! However every moment was worth it and the final stop at The Skull which we have included a photo of was breathtaking.

Flinders Ranges

Part 1
We travelled from the caravan park at Port Augusta on to the Flinders Ranges through Hawker where we stopped for a coffee (very nice too!) at the local store. Ian enquired as to where the best camping spots were in the Flinders and after some initial reluctance “I’m not supposed to recommend …….” The suggestion was if we wanted some quiet place to go to that Willow Springs would suit us.
Willow Springs is a Station which has operated as a cattle and sheep station since the 1860’s by the Reynolds Family. The pastoral lease is 70,000 acres and has a maximum carrying of 4,500 sheep and up to 40 breeding cows. The Reynolds family have now opened up this magnificent country for visitors to enjoy and we are certainly doing that, having already extended our original booking of four nights to five. We are camped on a site called Grass Wren. All the sites are large and have their own bush toilet, picnic table, fire place and magnificent slate boulders in a semi circle to act as tables. We are beside a presently empty creek which is also beautiful and full of beautiful slate pieces from pebbles to coffee table size and in a myriad of colours. It is just perfect.
The station hosts are very helpful and suggested a number of walks and drives to showcase the Flinders but their gem is called ‘Skytrek ‘ and is a 61km drive through the property which took us through parts of the original homestead before we went right up along the ranges to Mt. Caernarvon giving a spectacular view of the surrounds. The drive is strictly four wheel drive and no surprise about that, parts were quite challenging. I’m pleased to report that I was able to keep my eyes open the whole way and thoroughly enjoyed the day as of course did Ian and he was able to make use of all the four wheel features our normally suburban “Toorak tractor” has to offer.
We were able to see some Aboriginal Engravings believed to be carved by a race of aboriginals who inhabited the region before the more recent Adnyamathanha people. It is incredible to think that these engravings were carved with only stone hitting stone.
Early on our trek we stopped for a break at Old Moxans’ Hut which was built around the turn of the century. This hut was occupied permanently by a station employee until the early 1960’s (bet he didn’t have a wife to share his salubrious “home” with). The hut was restored with the help of the Nissan Patrol Club in 1993. The chimney collapsed and was restored after a seven inch downpour in February 1997. The photos with this blog show the hut complete with the sign declaring it to be “Another AV Jennings Home!” I hope not!
We’ve also included a photo of our piece of paradise campsite.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Alice Springs to Port Augusta

We left Alice on Tuesday morning after taking a couple of photos of the Sturt Desert Pea which are just magnificent. As we travelled along we were met with cavalcade of vehicles travelling up to the reunion at the Transport Hall of Fame which is this weekend. We were told in no uncertain terms that we couldn’t extend our stay in Alice as everything was book and by the volume of vehicles coming in there will be ‘no room in the inn!’
The weather had turned most inclement with rain and strong winds so we were a little apprehensive as to what was before us but having booked our flights for next week over Lake Eyre we were excited to be on our way. We stopped at Stuarts Well for coffee- home of the great Dinky the singing dingo and were fortunate to catch one of his performances which we really enjoyed, just as much as the first time we visited two years ago. He is still in fine form although a little grey around the mouth now!
We stopped for the night just over the border at Agnes Creek and set off the next morning aiming for around Coober Pedy. After crossing into South Australia we were listening to the CB Radio and there was talk of quarantine inspectors on the road and how people were being penalised. At this time we realised the fruit and veg we had on board could prove to very expensive indeed.
When stopped at Marla Roadhouse we were admiring all the vehicles pausing on their journey to Alice for the reunion when I decided this was as good a place as any to get rid of the fruit and veg and managed to give it to some travellers who were going on to Alice. Whilst I was doing this Ian took a snap of one of the vehicles. By the time we had seen scores of trucks and vehicles passing by we were very envious and can only imagine how much fun and tall stories will be told over the weekend.
We stopped in Port Augusta, after staying further on past Coober Pedy at Bon Bon Rest Area, where we are able to refuel, fill up the water tanks and recharge the battery.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Chambers Pillar

On Sunday we decided to go for a drive to Chambers Pillar after we visited the market in the mall which was the best market we have been to on our travels. Lucky Ian, because I found a few ‘must haves’!
In the guide book Chambers Pillar is quoted as being 167kms from Alice Springs and taking 2hrs and 15 mins each way so we thought a lovely day trip. It was also 4 wheel drive recommended so it ticked all the boxes.
On the way we stopped at Emily Gap (photo) which was beautiful and then on to Ewanginga Rock Carvings where we met up with a ranger and had a lovely chat before walking around the rock carvings which are amazing. One of our photos is of these carvings which have great significance to the local Indigenous community. As we are not a part of the community we cannot be told of the meanings but they are as all the carving and paintings we have seen on our journey, quite amazing.
We drove on to Chambers Pillar with the weather not quite as good as our previous days but the ranger assured us that although the road would be sticky (she had returned from there that morning, and her vehicle was testament!) we would be fine. It was a great drive along beautiful ochre red roads and down into dry deep sandy river beds on to our destination – and on and on! Finally after 3 ½ hours we arrived! It had been a terrific drive which we thoroughly enjoyed and Chambers Pillar in the photo hardly does it justice but like so much of the scenery here a photo is a poor substitute for being there. We just keep looking around in amazement at the diversity of country as we travel. Sometimes there is thick bush and trees right up to the road and then in a blink of an eye it opens up to enormous mountains of all colours and shapes.
The ranger had told us there was an abundance of wildflowers already and we were not disappointed as you can see. Again it is really hard to capture in a photo but we tried and I took scores of photos, thanks to digital photography.
As the day was getting on we reluctantly left Chambers Pillar and decided to take the alternative route back along the old stock route to see what it had to offer. A lot of cattle gates, cattle, kangaroos and a lot more driving than we wanted. By the time we joined the Sturt Highway it was dark and we discovered to our dismay that we had a further 100kms to travel back to Alice Springs. Fortunately we joked most of the way back, but we were certainly tired.
This morning we looked at the car and realised we had brought back a large quantity of red dirt with us and looked for a car wash with a vacuum to clean out the sand inside as well as each time I got out to open/close gates I brought back sand and dirt with me. We did find a car wash and after two go’s we now have a much improved version of our car although we are still leaving clumps of red soil when we stop.
Off tomorrow to the Northern Territory/S.A. border and back to free camping.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Henley-On-Todd Regatta - Alice Springs

We timed our visit to Alice Springs to coincide with this iconic event and were very pleased that we did. The event began 49 years ago and apparently gets better every year. We certainly enjoyed our day which began with the parade of the ships down the main street and then proceeded down to the Todd River which of course has no water. We settled in to the grandstand to enjoy the events which began with BYO boat followed by Sand Shovelling, Surf Rescue, Oxford Tubs, Sand Skis, Bath Tub Derby, Boogie Board, Beach Sprints, Mini Yachts, Cycling Tour d’Todd, Kayak, Rowing, Tug of War and then the major battle of the boats which are our photos today.
All of this is conducted in a dry river bed and the ingenuity in presenting surf rescue and cycling is amazing and really has to be seen to be believed.
The battle of the boats which involved a navy boat, the Vikings and the Buccaneers involved some very fast driving, lots of water and flour bombs, which everyone enjoyed.
Prior to the final battle one of the Vikings proposed to his girlfriend which was very touching and we also had a streaker so there was something for everyone (well the girls at least)!!!

Friday, 20 August 2010

On to Alice Springs

On the road on Thursday we stopped at the Devil’s Marbles which we had passed on our previous trip but not stopped at because of inclement weather. No such issue this time it was 31 degrees when we stopped just before lunch to have a walk around. These rock formations are fantastic to see and the ones which have over thousands of years split in half quite incredible. We were really pleased to have the opportunity to see them close up this time.
We stopped at a roadside camp called McDouall Stuart Memorial on Thursday night. It’s only a short run to Alice Springs where we will stay for the next few nights.

Still at Camooweal

Yes, well we were moving on on Tuesday but that didn’t happen. We decided another sunrise and sunset couldn’t hurt so we settled down for another beautiful day and were not disappointed at all as the weather was even better. We were treated to the cattle staying only 25metres away from us grazing and having the occasional argument. Each day there was something different to see and enjoy.
As we travel we have kept in touch with the important stuff through the ABC radio as TV is sometimes not available. Warwick gave us a guide issued by the ABC with all the local stations throughout Australia listed and it has been a godsend. On Tuesday afternoon the local announcer and his producer were discussing how caravan travellers tend to slow down the traffic flow in the mornings when they are travelling to work. Why a van would want to be on the road at that time beats us, we’re just having a leisurely cup of tea to start the day but there you are. He (the announcer) was asking for comments from listeners about vanners so I couldn’t resist and actually got on straight away and was able to put forward our desire to see the country slowly but also not have a trail of traffic behind so we pull over or advise by the CB that we will move over as soon as practicable. I also couldn’t resist telling him of our misfortune in having a car and boat overtake us whilst we had done the right thing and breaking our window! So there I have had my say on Queensland radio as Sue from Shepparton! Warwick was proud (or at least said he was when he actually stopped laughing), perhaps now when we get home he will ring me for a weather report, a bone of contention we have! ** Suey was so good it is no wonder that she ended up with a son-in-law who is in radio. **
We celebrated my radio debut by toasting marshmallows by the open fire. Very satisfying! As a postscript, when we did leave Camooweal reluctantly on Wednesday we were travelling along enjoying the ride when a semi-trailer drew up behind us. Ian got on the CB and said we would be able to give him space to pass soon. He replied no worries and went past us soon after. I noticed the address on his cabin door was Shepparton so Ian told him we were from Shepparton too. He replied and asked if we were on the ABC yesterday as he had been telling his mates about us! See I’m famous! We had a chat and wished him well for his journey and continued on our way thinking not for the first time that out here is it a very small world!
We stopped at 41 Mile Bore which was a rest area 117km west of Barkly Homestead on the Barkly Highway and had a very pleasant evening sitting under the stars as the weather was still 28 degrees at 8 o’clock.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Our new Vehicle

Whilst we have good net coverage I have another photo to add mainly for Peter's benefit as he seems to delight in pointing out to us that we are having far too good a time on his share of the inheritance. This vehicle complete with boat and car on tow to run around town is the one we have ordered to take us to the next level of travel which we feel we so richly deserve. It should just about take care of his share of the inheritance we think. Happy days Pete, but one day you will be able to flog it on E-Bay!!!!

Sojourn in Camooweal

When we stayed at the WW2 site we talked to some other campers and were told of the free camp site at Camooweal beside the lagoon so we decided to make that our next stop on our crawl towards Alice Springs.
What a find! We are situated about five minutes from the thriving metropolis of Camooweal. We called in to the post office as there was a sign displaying “real coffee” and we were both hanging out for a cup of coffee and real coffee has become something we crave and critique as we travel. The staff in the post office were so lovely and the coffee fantastic, complete with a complimentary mini muffin! We were also able to vote there so that’s out of the way. Each of these remote Queensland Government Agencies has voting papers for every seat in Australia. What a nightmare for them but dead easy for us!
We drove on to the lagoon which greeted us with an abundance of bird life to enjoy watching. Just across the lagoon there are two at least eagle nests which are very busy feeding young and maintaining nests by constantly adding twigs. We also have a number of ducks doing their bum up fishing and brolgas walking along the edges fishing with their long beaks in the shallows. The brolgas have long legs which are jointed at the ‘knees’ so that they appear to be walking back to front. It sounds ungainly but they make very efficient fisherbirds. There are many other birds which we don’t know and we will have to pack our bird book next time as it has become quite a pastime for us now and very enjoyable. We’ve watched the sunrise from the van each morning although we did get out on the first morning and watch it from the bank. It was spectacular and we again realise just how lucky we are.
The town itself has a special charm and contains the drovers’ camp which is a microcosm of the stockman’s hall of fame at Longreach and the Longreach site has had some input from the people here. You would never know that the tin shed you drive past as you come into the town contains so much of the history of droving. As we sat back at the campsite on Saturday a car drove up and a man spoke to Ian assuring him first he wasn’t a ranger but that there would be free country singing at the drovers’ camp on Sunday afternoon if we wanted to come along. So off we went not really having any idea of what to expect. Behind the time doors was quite an amazing display of droving memorabilia and beyond the obvious old and some new trappings of droving is a room containing magnificent portraits of drovers which are added to each year by the same artist. Each year there is a drovers reunion here, next weekend actually but we’ll be in Alice Springs by then so they are starting to get organised and very excited about it all. We were treated to two hours of music which we really enjoyed and then a tour of the camp which was amazing. The portraits and murals were fantastic and the warmth of the greeting we received just made our stay. We know have a much greater appreciation of the life of the drovers and it seems just amazing to learn of the lives they lead and how they for the most part enjoyed the privations they endured throughout their times on the road.
We thought a drink at the pub was in order and even dinner, but alas no dinner on Sunday night! All is not lost however as we decided to stay another night because it just doesn’t get much better than this. So another couple of coffees, a relax by the lagoon and dinner at the pub on Monday night and off on Tuesday to …….. somewhere.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Photos from Mary Kathleen and on to Mt. Isa

At last after many tries I have finally uploaded the Mary Kathleen images, so will take the opportunity to update our last couple of days.
We proceeded from from Mary Kathleen to Mount Isa for the necessary repairs. We now have a new Anderson plug, (the thing that connects the car to the van for charging power which fell off and broke a few days ago). A new chair for Ian 'cos his fell apart and ..... a new window! Hooray, now when we check to see if the car is locked at night there is some point to it.
We've moved on to a World War 2 Airstrip 50 km NW of Mt. Isa as we slowly proceed to Alice Springs. We've booked in there for next weekend for the Henley on Todd which should be great fun.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Terry Smith Lookout to Cloncurry then Mary Kathleen

The rain and cooler weather have come to visit for a while. It rained throughout the night at the Lookout but by the time we arrived at Cloncurry it was just a lot cooler than we had been used to but I’m sure the sympathy level is pretty low from you all so I will just go on with our travel tale!
Cloncurry was as quiet as we remembered it, so an uneventful day passed as we caught up on the washing and charging up everything possible. We have been quite a while without power so it was a useful stop.
Last night we stayed only a short distance from Cloncurry at the Mary Kathleen free camp. This is a fantastic stop and is the remains of the township from the Mary Kathleen Mine which has had two lives. Firstly as a bauxite mine and then as an uranium mine. When both of these were discontinued the whole town was either lifted up off the foundations or sold off in what was reported to be the largest auction of its time in Australia in 1983.
What is left is a whole residential estate set out with concrete slabs where the homes, supermarket and every other building to make up a town once stood. The streets are asphalt and the main streets were two lanes still with the white lines able to be seen down the middle of the streets. We drove around the streets until we found a high spot where a previous camper had left a cosy fire burning and set ourselves up for an interesting stay.
We knew there was a cairn somewhere on one of the slabs and set out to walk around the estate and have a hunt for it. You can see Ian with the cairn putting back the information other travellers had left. There is a book to sign to share reasons for visiting and the opportunity to look at a plan of the estate and some other photos. Amazingly we had camped at the pre-school centre and also beside the swimming pool. Many of you will know Ian’s last areas of responsibility before he became a ‘feather duster’ encompassed Pre Schools and the Leisure Centre. As if staying in a ghost town isn’t spooky enough!!
The whole experience of seeing a town completely gone except for infrastructure is quite amazing but is surpassed by the magnificent country surrounding it all. We’re pleased it’s not still a mine because it couldn’t possibly look as beautiful as it does today. A daybreak photo doesn’t even do it justice.
Off to Mount Isa now for the window replacement and a couple of other maintenance issues.

Pete has been pleading for some photos of interesting buildings, really and truly Pete we are trying but it was never going to happen here! In fact the gremlins have struck and I can't seem to load our pics with the blog so I'll try another time.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Leichardt Lagoon to Cloncurry

We reluctantly left Leichardt Lagoon after calling in to Normanton to fill up with water and empty the toilet. Sorry for that detail but figure you might like to know that we do still have domestic chores even on holiday. Before someone asks as I expect they will, the “drop off” site and”pick up” sites are in different locations!
While Ian was filling up with water which is very rare to find a council offering a fill site, good on Normanton for sharing their scarce resources with us, I sat on the ground and sent the last three blogs. By the way can you believe some idiot was using the water to wash his car, water is as scarce as hen’s teeth and he wanted to wash yesterday’s dust off ready to accept today’s on his wet car!
There was a very neat picnic area but as it had a tin roof I couldn’t get good enough internet speed and would have been there a week as the queue grew for the water tap. Sending blogs takes me to a myriad of locations from sitting on the side of the road at night to today!
The country as we travelled today changed and we are noticing the first wattle we have seen so far, also a lot of heaths in many shades of green and grey. We have also seen patches of kapok trees with their bright yellow flowers which will form into nuts becoming kapok as they burst. We stopped a way out and managed to find one Ian could reach and took a photo beside our “patented applied for broken window cover” which works very well thank you. On a previous trip we had been told of the importance of Kapok trees to the indigenous people in discerning the change of seasons and we have noticed the change in them as we travel on.
Our stop tonight is a free camp at Terry Smith Lookout. Terry was the mailman out of Cloncurry servicing the Gulf properties for 41 years. Not a bad innings Terry, bet he knew some secrets from out here.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Leichardt Lagoon

After one further night on the road we arrived at Leichardt Lagoon which is 20k from Normanton and just a beautiful place to go. The camp is only seasonal and part of a large property. In the middle of the campground is a lagoon which is the home of hundreds of birds and lilies. It is just so peaceful and we are camped right beside the lagoon, sitting outside the van watching the birds go about their daily business. We had originally booked in for two nights but can’t resist a third as it is so lovely and as we have resolved our battery issues we can now camp without power again for a number of nights. There is no water to the van but showers are provided if we run low in the van so we’re set.
The homestead is nearby and tonight we are going there for tea. The owner puts on a regular three course meal for visitors for ……………….. THREE DOLLARS a head! We think we can splurge for that! We have to take everything including chairs, cutlery and drinks but they supply all the food. I’m sure it will be fantastic and there will be about 60 people there so I’m sure it will be a great night.
We drove to Kuranda to see what there was to see and decided you would be in heaven if you were a fisherman but as Ian is not inclined despite having a rod on board we bought prawns and barra wings instead. It’s not too bad a life really – temperature at 12 o’clock a comfortable 30degrees. Hope you’re all having fun too!

To Leichardt Lagoon

It has been an eventful trip to Leichardt Lagoon which we have visited before. On our way here we travelled along the Savannah way which leads to Undara Larva Tubes which we have visited twice before. The road has been one of our bug bears on our previous two trips and was the inspiration for us getting a two way radio as there is a constant stream of road trains on a very narrow road, in some places only a narrow single lane of bitumen and the two way provides some measure of communication between vehicles.
As a general rule of thumb however if you see something bigger than you coming either behind or in front – get out of the way because he won’t! However we were very pleasantly surprised when we discovered that much more of the road was sealed and in some places two lanes so we thought we were home and hosed. We were more than happy to pull over anyway as we’re not in a hurry and others are. Obviously so, because we had just pulled over and allowed a vehicle with a boat attached to go past which he did at high speed and broke the passenger window on Ian’s side of the car by flicking up a stone. Damnation, damn and a few other words too!
However following our glass half full philosophy, it could have been worse, we weren’t hurt, there was no-one sitting in that seat and it could have been a windscreen. Nonetheless we wish our fisherman a very poor catch when he reaches his destination at Karumba!
As I started sweeping millions of pieces of glass from the car a couple of grey nomads stopped to see if we were OK which was very nice and a B double with a very friendly truck driver stopped to offer assistance. We assured him we were OK and he began to drive off, but stopped just beside the car and hopped out and asked what were we going to do with the hole and did we have any suitable tape. Ian had hundred mile an hour tape (guess you will know what that is!). It was like that scene from Crocodile Dundee when Paul Hogan says to the thugs of New York “Now this is a knife!” He produced from his cabin a roll of blue tape which caused me to say “Now that is tape!”.
For those who may find themselves in a similar position, the best solution as he recommended to us is cover the window with a towel, it’s much more effective than plastic as we discovered. The things you learn. We proceeded on our way without further adventure except for thinking bad thoughts about cars with boats and new respect and kind wishes to our angel from Emerald who delivered our random act of kindness. We’re sure going to have to add blue tape to our kit now!
Our overnight stop was forgettable so I won’t talk about it!

Archer Creek

We have stayed at Archer Creek 20 k SW of Ravenshoe before and this time it was a great stop on our way to Leichardt Lagoon. Archer Creek is a very popular stopover as it is such a pretty location being right beside Archer Creek. The first time we visited the creek was pretty slow, but there has been much more rain this time and the creek was in much better form. We were accompanied by about 20 other vans on this visit and Ian was able to light up our little campfire and cook jaffles for our dinner which was lovely. We stayed sitting outside for a long time and later in the evening we were joined by Ray the wool classer from Geelong who drove up in the dirtiest Mitsubishi Pajero I have ever seen. He had been splashed by a truck which completely covered his car. I was even cheeky enough to ask what colour it had been. He was not the slightest concerned. It was not the greatest of his troubles as he had driven up with no gears or clutch due to the “wonderful” roads he picked! He was full of suggestions of where Ian could take us. After we retired I assured Ian we were already on the right track! It was nonetheless a very entertaining evening and we wished him well as he chugged off in the morning!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Heading South

After a fantastic time in and around Cooktown, it is time to start the long journey back south, having been as far north as possible with the van. On the way down we stopped and took the attached photo of some of the beautiful landscape that we travelled through.
We stopped that night at the Rocky Creek War Memorial site, just north of Atherton on the tablelands above Cairns. This was the site of a 3000 bed hospital during WW2 and used for many wounded and ill soldiers from New Guinea, and other Pacific locations. At the site today is a very impressive memorial to many of the units which operated, or trained, in that general area, and I suspect that Ian’s dads unit might be one of them. It has inspired him to find out much more about his dad’s war service when we return home.
The photo is of one of the units which he may have served in. As well as the memorial is a large area set aside as a free camping site for up to three nights – lovely place and very well maintained.
From here it is on towards Normanton, in far north west Queensland.