Saturday, May 30, 2009

Catching Up (5)

Day 122 – 13 Apr 09

10 days, and still no sign of the parts for the Kia. Good thing I’m not in a hurry. I checked the RACQ road conditions and it looks like there are still a few road closures in place up in the gulf, so I probably need to kill a bit of time anyway. This really is a pleasant site for a caravan park, price is reasonable at $28.00 a night, especially with the 10% discount for being a Top Tourist member (although that has run out due to the $25.00 maximum) and the “stay 7 days, pay for 6” which works out to a 14% discount as well. The facilities are top-class, great showers with plenty of water pressure, place is pet-friendly although there are very few pets in evidence. The place seems very popular, it has been chokka several times, although I would have expected more kids, it being the school holidays and all. Maybe kids don’t like the Mt. Isa area?

Day 129 – 20 Apr 09

Finally, the parts have arrived and they can fix the Kia. I could probably have taken a few side-trips like Lawn Hill or similar while I was stuck here, but I didn’t want to take the chance of the vehicle giving up the ghost somewhere out the back of beyond. I love automatics, but if you can’t start them with the key, you’re absolutely stuffed. No push-start with these blokes.

Now that I’m mobile again, I can think about moving on. Staying in a van park has its good points, but it can become expensive after a while. It’s not that I’m stingy, but the money has to last. I know that a lot of people work here and there while there on the road, but I don’t want to work unless I absolutely have to. To my mind, that’s what being retired is, not working. The couple in the van next to me are Kiwis, about 30-something, and they pull into a place, stay at a van park and get jobs. She’s cleaning at the Irish Club and he’s delivering Pizzas. Evidently they got their jobs the first day they hit town and plan on staying for a couple of months. Good on ‘em, but I’d rather sit on my duff and do nothing.

Day 130 – 21 Apr 09

On the road again. Departed the Isa this morning and took a run out to Lake Moondarra.

Very nicely set up, the lake is a dam on the Leichhardt River to supply water to the Isa and the mines, but they have taken the trouble to make it into a good recreation area as well. Nice lawns, shade, picnic areas etc., but also opportunities to take a good walk up the hills and so forth.

One thing I have noticed since getting into Queensland is the number of hawks around. They seem to be everywhere in quite large numbers. Must be the good conditions have increased their prey which has in turn increased or at least concentrated the number of hawks.

On the road back to the Isa from Lake Moondarra. I don't know what these blokes were drinking or smoking, but it must have been good stuff!

I remember coming through this way in 1973, stopping at Mary Kathleen for a break and a cold drink. The last couple of times I’ve been through, I couldn’t find any sign of the place. I know they pulled it all up and moved some of it to Cloncurry, but I couldn’t even find where it has been. This time there is a sign leading in to the townsite. It’s only a couple of kms off the road but the road itself is in a real bad state.

I had some old photos of the place from ’73 and it was interesting to try to identify the same locations now.

My understanding is that one is not supposed to camp there, but there are no signs anywhere saying so, so I’m going to plead ignorance and stay for a few days. The old hardstanding surfaces make an ideal van site and there is plenty of shade. There are another couple of semi-nomads already here, so we can plead ignorance together.

Day 131 – 22 Apr 09

I’ve walked for miles today. There’s a hill just to the east of the townsite and you can get a wonderful view over the whole area from there. It’s a bit of a scramble getting up and wouldn’t you know it – after stumbling and scrambling through the Spinifex to get up to the top, there are the remains of an old dirt access road which I could have walked up. The deterioration shows here too. The bottom part of the road, where it runs down the hill has become badly eroded by rain running down the track and has turned into a mini-gorge all of its own.

There is a bitumen ring-road which runs around the whole townsite and it was a good 5 or 6 kms right around. Great for a bit of exploring and trying to work out what the various locations were. The road extends through into “Private Property – Trespassers will be burned alive” sort of thing, but I couldn’t resist having a stickybeak. Again, not all that much to see, but I suppose the property owners are entitled to their privacy.

Day 132 – 23 Apr 09

Took a side-trip today, just in the Kia, down to what is fancifully named Clem Walton Park, more properly Corella Dam. It’s only a few kms from Mary K and only 4 or 5 kms off the main road, but it is a fairly rough track in. It is obviously accessible because there was a standard 18 foot van at the campsite, but I reckon you would want to take it r-e-a-l easy going in, in anything but an off-roader. It was quite pleasant at the camp, lots of shade, room for 10 or 12 sites, toilets, but not much else. The campsite is on the over-flow from the dam and I bet there would be lots of mozzies. Took a walk up to the dam wall. Nice walk – dozens of dead turtles everywhere for some reason. More hawks around – could be connected. Site would probably be worth a stop for a few days, but I don’t feel like packing up just to move a few kms, maybe next time I’m through this way?

Day 133 – 24 Apr 09

Packed up this morning, but before I hitched up, took a run out to the actual Mary K mine site. I’m glad I did, the view is spectacular. The mine is a semi-open-cut. They terraced the hill and then continued down into a pit. They mined for uranium, but it is obvious that there is a lot of copper in the ground. The water has been coloured by the copper sulphate leaching out of the ground and is the most vibrant blue colour (looks like those high school chemistry classes weren’t a complete waste after all – thanks Mr. Tindale). I wouldn’t have ever thought I would see anything bluer than the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier, but I have now.

The couple at Mary K have said that Wal’s Camp at Cloncurry is worth a visit, $10 a night, hot showers, but no power. Sounds like a good deal to me, think I’ll stop there for a couple of nights.

Day 134 – 25 Apr 09

They were right, it’s not bad for what you pay for. Not a lot of shade, so pick the direction you park to make the best use of your awnings and the shade provided by the body of your vehicle. There’s an on-site refrigerated trailer just outside the camp and the sound of the bloody thing kicking in and out all night is a pain in the bum.

Went into town this morning for the ANZAC service, wasn’t too bad for a little town this size. I still can’t get used to troops using these Steyr rifles. They look like the plastic toys kids used to play with, and when they present arms with them it looks ridiculous. I think there’s a case to be made for continuing to use the SLR for ceremonial purposes like this. The troopies simply stood with the weapons slung during the service because it’s obviously impossible to perform “Rest on your arms reversed” with this weapon. Takes something away from the solemnity of a memorial service somehow.

In the afternoon , I went out to Chinaman Creek Dam. It's a very lovely spot, only 5 or 6 kms out of town and a great spot for a picnic or a day out with the ankle-biters.

Due to the recent rains through the area, the dam is chokkas, right up to the top of the wall and the movement of the boats on the dam were sending the water over the top of the spillway.

There is a (pretty rough) track leading from the back of the spillway and out along the retaining wall, that leads to some very picturesque spots on the upper reaches of the lake. Don't know about camping, couldn't see any signs and nobody seemed to know one way or the other - might come under that "30 kms from town" blanket restriction.

Took a spin up to the Ernest Henry minesite north of town in the afternoon to have a look at the big pit. Waste of bloody time, there’s no public access, and nowhere that you can get a view of the pit. Oh, well, more experience.

Took a deviation to Fort Constantine on the way back, thought it sounded interesting. Evidently whoever named it was reminded of the forts in Constantinople. Couldn’t see anything that was faintly reminiscent of a fort. There is a very picturesque crossing at the Cloncurry River, – More hawks, and a very flash set of station buildings, but no fort that I could see.

Day 136 – 27 Apr 09

The road from Cloncurry to Charters Towers has certainly changed over the years. I first travelled this route in 1969. There was 30 kms of bitumen east of Cloncurry and about 1 km each side of Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, then it started again at Torrens Creek. The rest was dirt and washaways. Still very green everywhere with knee high grass as far as the eye can see.

I had a wander around Richmond and all I can say about these outback Queenslanders is that they seem a bit careless to me. On the historical walk, there are several signs stating what used to be there, including in many cases photographs of the original buildings. If there were any which hadn’t been destroyed by one fire or another, I couldn’t find them. Either somebody was very careless with matches or there were some great insurance scams going on.

Camped tonight at Marathon, just a roadside rest area but quite nice.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Hey an interesting account of your journey, I reckon I would've passed you on the road between Borroloola and Doomadgee, saw the same cyclists etc. Solo traveller here too, always on the road and love it. Thanks for sharing