Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 185 - 15 Jun 09

I ended up significantly over-staying the “legal” limit at Bushy Parker Park at Rollingstone, but it was such a beautiful site that it was very easy to stay for “just one more day.” I was all squared away and ready to move yesterday, but after having a glass of juice and a cup of coffee for breakfast, I just couldn’t be bothered hooking up so stayed another day.

A walk along the creek brings you to the railway and highway bridges over the creek as well as an old bridge on what appears to be the old highway and is now a bypass road. A couple of deep holes which make great swimming holes, but what struck me was the artwork on the supports under the bridge. It is amazing what some people can do with spray cans. If only they would do more of this and less of the “tagging.”

Drove through to Innisfail via Ingham, Cardwell and Tully. Beautiful scenery all along the coast and through plantations of bananas and sugar cane. Hinchinbrook Island would have to get the nod for the island the least distance off the coast, it's only a matter of metres and I think that at low tide, you'd just about have to call it part of the mainland.

Booked into the River Drive Caravan Park in Innisfail. Was originally going to stay for just 2 nights, but, unlike the majority of parks, the manager only charged me $15 per night because I was on my own, rather than the usual “2-person” standard rate, so I stayed for an additional couple of nights.

The information centre in Innisfail had a “1 for 1” free book exchange, so I took advantage of it to swap about 15 books, which should keep me going for another 3 weeks or so.

If I was going to go into business, I discovered a possible money-earner. I searched all over town for an axe. Had great difficulty even finding a place that sold them (you’d think hardware stores, but no luck.) Finally found a couple of places and the cheapest I could find was $78.00!!! Bloody Hell, you can buy a cheap chainsaw for not much more than that.

Day 189 – 19 Jun 09

OK, time to head for the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Took off from Innisfail this morning and headed over the Great Dividing Range via Millaa Millaa, but by-passed the Atherton Tableland (been there, done that). It rained the night before in Innisfail and the weather was still very overcast when I left. The result of this was that the high passes over the range were blanketed with fog, and I mean foggggg. Visibility about 50 metres and this is in broad daylight, but by the time I got to Ravenshoe on the other side of the range, the weather had cleared and it was fine and clear again.

Stopped for the night at a roadside rest area called Archer River and again it was a delightful spot. I think Queensland has to take the prize for having the best rest areas I've seen. No facilities except toilets (and they were backed up), but a really pretty area and some nice bushwalks along the creek and up the local hills. It has been fairly chilly here recently, getting down to 8 degC overnight and only up to 25 deg during the day, but it is all relative. It is the middle of winter, and it’s a hell of a lot colder in the south, I heard on the radio that it was minus 5 in Stanthorpe yesterday, and Lord knows what it is in Melbourne.

Day 192 – 22 Jun 09

A long run today, close to 400 km from Archer River to Gilbert River via Mt. Garnet, Mt. Surprise, and Georgetown. Gilbert River is only a Roadside Rest Area, with no facilities whatsoever, but there is plenty of room and plenty of shade and plenty of firewood.

It is very, very, very dusty here at the moment, evidently last wet-season the Gilbert River overflowed and covered the campsite, so it dropped a lot of silt which, now that it has dried out and been churned up by vehicles, has turned into a really fine powder or “bull-dust.” But what sunsets, and the sound of the birds in the mornings is magnificent.

Seems to be a popular spot, 13 vehicles here overnight on Tuesday night, 3 on Wednesday and 16 on Thursday. Most only stayed overnight, but a couple stayed for 2 or 3 days like me. I took a wander down to the actual river and it is amazing that a river so big can have so little water in it. I wonder if they are like the rivers in the NW of W.A. where the river acually keeps flowing, but beneath the sand.

There is a phenomenal number of vans and motorhomes on the road. I didn’t bother to count, but I would estimate 50 or 60 a day at least and it isn’t even school holidays yet.

Day 196 – 26 Jun 09

Well, I’m here at the Gulf. Left Gilbert River this morning and drove to Normanton via Croydon, about 220 kilometres.

I stopped for a couple of hours in Croydon and had a good look round. Evidently when it was a gold-mining area, there were over 8,000 people in Croydon and some small surrounding towns, but now has a population of around 150. The locals have preserved a lot of the old buildings and restored them for public display.

The general store claims to be the oldest store in Oz, built in 1884 and, whether this is true or not, they make an absolutely fabulous hamburger. A big meat pattie, egg, heaps of crisp bacon and oodles of salad and only $7.50. Got to be great value, I can scoff a couple of quarter pounders or double whoppers at a sitting, but this burger was a feed and a half. A bloke at Gilbert River said that the burgers at Burketown are the best in Oz, so I will have to get one there and make a comparison.

I’m at the Caravan Park in Normanton for a couple of days and will have a look around and take a side trip to Karumba tomorrow, before heading off to Burketown. Look for some photos in the next post.

The bloke who told me about the burger told me that the road from Burketown through Hell’s Gate and Booraloola is in really good condition so that bodes well for the future, I really don’t want to have to go back to Cloncurry and Tennant Creek unless I absolutely have to. He also said that the road via Roper Bar is in great condition, so if I can go that way it will be a real bonus. I was planning to go from Booraloola to Daly Waters, but Roper Bar would cut several hundred kilometres of the trip. Time will tell.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 178 - 08 Jun 09

One of the shortest stages of the whole trip, just 47 km from Townsville to the Bushy Parker Bush Camp at Rollingstone. What a great little (or not so little) camp site. Terrific shade, close to a beaut, clean swimming hole, toilets, free electric barbecues, drinking water and some of the sites even have taps that you can hook up to. Truly idyllic.

Camping is permitted (obviously) but is restricted to 48 hours and only once a week for those who might try to fiddle the books. This is a long weekend for the Queensland observance of the Queen's Birthday Holiday, so the Ranger won't be around until Tuesday to check. I arrived on Friday, so I'm planning to leave on Thursday morning which means I've managed to wangle a week here.

The place was absolutely chokkas over the weekend, probably mostly locals from the area, but the majority have gone now and it is really peacefull, the weather is glorious, 28 degC and not a cloud in the sky and the humidity is quite low. I shall be sorry to leave, but oh well, that's life.

I spoke to several people who are familiar with the area and it seems that there are a significant number of good free or cheap campsites along this part of the coast, Balgal, Bluewater, Toomulla, Big Crystal etc. and those who are on the road full-time, simply drift from one to the other in a cycle. The area IS delightful, but I think even Paradise might pall after a while.

The long-distance travelling is what attracts me tropics this week, savannah next week, desert the following week, mountains the week after.

I'm finally camping in the style I originally intended, stopping more than driving. This leg has been absolutely perfect - drive for less than 50 km and then camp for a week.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 168 - 29 May 09

I've been playing silly buggers with the pics I've been including, blowing them up to a larger size, but I think I'll just go back to the thumbs. For anyone who doesn't know, if you click on the pic, it will come up to full size in a new window, so I'm not gaining anything by making them larger in the blog.

Off Again. It has been flamin' marvellous staying here at Fletcher Creek, I didn't want to leave. Took a couple of runs into Charters Towers while I was here, just to get bread and milk etc. Crikey, that place must be the Flying Fox (Fruit Bat) capital of Queensland.
Headed north from Fletcher Creek up to the Harvey Range Developmental road. Bit dicey! Only just one lane and lots of road trains trucking ore use the road. If you see them far enough ahead, it's easy to pull off and let them through (most of them gave a "thank you" on UHF40), but in the winding sections, it was a bit nervous making.

Over the range and into Townsville. There was a beaut lookout as you crest the range, but no warning signs and I was past it before I could stop. Steep winding road on the way down and no place to turn around so I missed it.

Booked into the Coral Coast caravan park for a week to get some washing and shopping done.

04 June 2009 - Day 174

Had a drive around Townsville and up to Castle Hill. Great views from the top, they should make it compulsory for all towns to have a big hill just outside town so you can get a view like this.
Weather has been fine for the last couple of weeks and today was bright and clear so there was a terrific view of Magnetic Island from the top of Castle Hill.

The humidity has gone through the roof since I hit the coast, I guess I've been spoiled by the amount of time I've spent inland and the humidity has come as a bit of a shock to the system. Could be worse though, it could be the Wet Season when the humidity hits 99%.

I'm off again in the morning, heading north up the coast to Innisfail, should be there in a week or so and I should have coverage most of the way, so I'll put in some pics as I travel