Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200508 1 Australia-Qld NT

MONDAY 1 AUGUST – Get a really good sleep after going to bed at 8pm.  Only one train in the night disturbs us.  Unbelievably we wake to rain.  About 15km south of Townsville we pull up at the Alligator Creek “Caltex” roadhouse.  You can park here overnight and they provide free electricity, hot showers, toilets, a TV lounge and coin operated laundry.  Unfortunately it is very near the main road and a popular truck stop.  We just use the hot showers.  Before leaving Taylorwood Peter & Jeanette gave us their contact details and said to call for a map of how to get to our mutual friends George & Corry’s new home in Townsville.  We send Peter a text and are just finishing shopping when he phones.  He explains that Jeanette is away in Brisbane this week but he would like us to visit and stay over for a couple of nights.  He wants to chat about our lifestyle, explains that he can arrange for us to meet up with Corry (George is away this week) and offers our own bedroom and bathroom.  With heavy rain expected for the next couple of days it’s an easy decision to make.  Peter is in the Aussie equivalent of the Territorial Army but can get away for long enough to meet us at their house in the suburb of Annandale.  He quickly shows us round their home, chats over a coffee then heads back to work leaving us with the keys – amazingly trusting considering we haven’t chatted to him for above 10 minutes.  Apart from the cat Liquorice we have the place to ourselves and spend the afternoon relaxing.  Peter arrives back in the evening and explains that Corry will also be staying overnight.  She and George recently sold their house in order to build a catamaran.  They are presently living in a converted shipping container on the industrial estate and Corry is not keen to stay there on her own.   After eating together we all settle down to chat and the time flies by.  It’s after 11pm when we retire for the night.



TUESDAY 2 AUGUST – They definitely got the weather forecast right with the torrential rain throughout the night showing no signs of abating.  This is most unusual for this part of the country but much appreciated by the drought stricken farmers. Peter keeps popping back home to chat and have a coffee.  The afternoon brightens up a bit so when Peter finally gets home for the day we head into Townsville to Jupiter’s casino where we have seen a Tuesday $3 (£1.35) meal deal advertised.  With ID it is free to get the membership needed to obtain the special offers.  The food is excellent value and rounded off with free soft drink, tea, coffee or hot chocolate in the pokies area.  On the way back Peter drives us to the top of Mount Stuart where we get superb views over the city.  Get back just before Corry arrives for the night so we end up staying up late chatting again.



WEDNESDAY 3 AUGUST – Packing up the van I find that the fridge has defrosted and it stinks of blood and rotting meat.  Although plugged in to the electric the slope of the drive must have been too much to enable it to operate properly.  I have to remove and wash everything very thoroughly and it still smells awful in the van.  By the time we have arrived at the northern Saunders Beach I am feeling quite unwell so we pull up at the area where you can free camp for 24 hours.  I take tablets for my migraine and try to have a snooze but find myself going into shivering spasms.    After an hours rest we move down the road to where Keith & Di are parked up in their friend Elaine’s garden.  They were washed out of the Townsville nudist club and are holing up here for a while.  Elaine kindly says we can also park up.  Catch up on all their latest news whilst sitting out.  It’s cloudy and windy but pleasant enough for a walk along the beach where we can see that almost 2 metres of beach front has been eroded by the recent storms.  I’m feeling quite strange with stomach pains and a sickly feeling but do manage a game of crib on our return before taking to my bed.  I’m cold even with clothes on and under 2 duvets and keep getting the shakes.  I take some tablets and about 1 hour later feel better but suddenly hot and feverish.  Steve figures out that my griping stomach is due to the orange juice from the fridge as it is now fermenting but the rest we can’t explain. 



THURSDAY 4 AUGUST – Feel a bit better by morning so we join Keith & Di for a trip in to Townsville and begin with a session at the library.  After this we meet Keith’s cousin and daughter at the Castletown shopping centre and pick up some lunch.  Return to Saunders beach and over afternoon tea with Elaine I find the reason for another of my ailments.  She uses duck eggs in her fruitcake and having eaten a slice yesterday this would have made me feel queasy, as duck eggs are too rich for me.  I can put the migraine down to the horrible meat smell so that just leaves the fever and people often get funny things in the tropics so that would be about right!   Although I get feverish later we do manage to fit I in a few more games of crib. 



FRIDAY 5 AUGUST – Daphne & Stan arrive mid morning, friends of Keith & Di we have also met them before.  Together we head to the Saunders Beach area frequented by nudists, at the south end over the creek.  We take a picnic with us and enjoy a good few hours of sunbathing strolling and swimming whist the sunshine holds.  Late afternoon we drive back to Townsville to Peter’s where Jeanette is now home.  They lay on a superb BBQ and Moira and Rod join us to round off the evening.



SATURDAY 6 AUGUST  – Another nice sunny day so we drive down to Palmer Street where they are holding a jazz weekend.  Meet up with Keith & Di and wander around but not much is happening.  Grab a fish and chip lunch then stroll around the shopping mall before Keith and Di head off back to their car.  We return to Palmer Street and find the jazz has started and school bands are performing.  We sit by the riverside under a canopy and enjoy a good hours worth of the music.  Drive out to the industrial estate where George & Corry are living in the yard of the Ice making factory for which George does work.  The 40-foot shipping container has been made into a home complete with windows, kitchen and bathroom.  Opposite it they have built a massive shed in which to build their kit style catamaran (rather like flat pack MFI furniture).  Building in their spare time the project will take them more than 3 but they will get a $500,000 (£225,000) boat for about  $250,000 (£110.000) – and we thought we were adventurous! We are amazed by what they have done in such a short time so feel sure they will have no problems seeing it through.  In the evening we all go back to Palmer Street where the jazz is in full swing and the military band excellent. 



SUNDAY 7 AUGUST – The weather is good enough for me to get washing done and dried and with a huge backlog I really get stuck into it and do 5 loads in between chatting to Corry & George.  George shows us round the ice making factory, definitely an unusual tourist attraction and very interesting.  Outside the container they have a patio with pot plants, table chairs and BBQ and we relax outside and have a BBQ to round off the day.



MONDAY 8 AUGUST – Whilst using the Internet yesterday I stumbled on where they have just released a batch of cheap flights in Malaysia for the time we will be there next year. They are too good to miss with some fares reduced from RM129.99 to RM1.99 (Over RM6 = £1).  George & Corry generously say we can stay and use the computer and even stay over again tonight so we take them up on the offer and get stuck in. Receive a text from Claire saying that David has had an accident and is in hospital.  Give her a phone call and find that whilst out on a stag night in Keighley he got pushed and fell badly injuring his ankle.  He needed a 4-hour operation to put a plate into it and may not be able to walk properly for 6 weeks so it’s not good at all.  After making a few other phone calls I tackle the internet and by dinner time we have booked 5 flights and will now have 3 days on Langkawi before flying over to Borneo where we have allowed ourselves 2 weeks to traverse from the western part of Sarawak over to the eastern end of Sabah.  We will then fly back to Kuala Lumpur, and have 3 weeks to make our way on the jungle railway to the east coast and spend time exploring there before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.  The grand total cost for the 10 flights including taxes will be around £80.   I cook a curry for us all to eat when George & Corry return from work and we stay up late again chatting. 



TUESDAY 9 AUGUST – I make an early morning call to check on David’s progress and unfortunately he wasn’t able to have his proper cast put on yesterday as he is still bleeding.  Without the cast he cannot walk and must stay in hospital.  We head off on the Overlanders Highway making our way to Darwin.  It’s about 3000km and can be done in a few days but we’ve allowed almost 3 weeks.  Our time is our own, as we know absolutely no one on the way so our visiting friends spell is over for now.  First stop is the old mining town of Charters Towers with some very impressive buildings.  In it’s day it was the second largest town in Queensland and was known as “The World” because it had everything imaginable at that time.  The old Stock Exchange has become a tourist attraction and we get a guided tour from the info centre filling us in on the “ghosts of gold”.  Further along the way we make a lunch stop at the Campapse River rest area complete with toilets but not a drop of water in the river.  After a siesta we press on further passing towns such as Balfes Creek with a population of 7!  Most of these places are worth a brief stop for a look in the pubs where they often have something quirky.  It’s 5pm when we reach Prairie and pull up at the rest area behind the Lions Park.  It’s a bit of a worry when I go to the toilet and find the toilet rolls secured with a heavy chain and two padlocks and the waste paper bin chained to the toilet.  It’s light until 6.30pm now so we eat out then retire for cards, a massage and an early night.  At 11pm a couple of other vehicles join us.



WEDNESDAY 10 AUGUST – Sit out having breakfast chatting to a couple of caravaners and an Austrian lad who has slept in his car.  We are now getting into the outback and get regular waves from oncoming traffic.  At Hughenden we pose for photos by Mutt a life size muttaburrasaurus.  This area is know as the dinosaur way.  When the inland seas receded from here they left lots of fossils that are now being unearthed.  The town rubbish bins are made to look liked dinosaur paws and there are lots of sculptures around the streets.  On the edge of town the driver reviver stop has toilets and free cold showers.  Richmond is another dinosaur area and here we pay $10 (£4.50) to visit the Kronosaurus Korner museum where we see one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever found and petrified remains of other hundred million year old fish and long necked elasmasaurs.   Continuing our journey along the Matilda highway we know we are in the outback by the number of waves we get from the drivers of the infrequent oncoming vehicles.  When we pull up by the Williams River we get a real outback welcome from hundreds of flies.  We’re at the side of a gravel pit used for road maintenance so consider we are staying at the “Hotel Gravel” for the night.



THURSDAY 11 AUGUST – The only disturbance during the night is when a road train pulls up for a brief stop.  In Cloncurry we stop at the tourist office in Mary Kathleen park, named after the nearby ghost-mining town. Within the park are relics of machinery from the uranium mine that ran from 1956 – 1982.  When it closed everything was dismantled including the houses that were re-located into the town.  Cloncurry is famous as having the hottest temperature (53.1C) ever recorded in Australia, is where Qantas was founded and the Royal Flying Doctor Service began.  On the outskirts of town Chinaman Creek Dam is a very attractive spot but not recommended for swimming due to crocodiles.  It’s also forbidden to camp here but I don’t think we would want to when we see broken bottles, stolen BBQ’s and disgusting toilets.  Heading towards Mount Isa the scenery changes and we have lots of rocky outcrops and hills on both sides.  We visit the ghost town of Mary Kathleen where the only signs of habitation are the remaining roads, footpaths and concrete pads were the houses stood.  The old mining road still exists but has many potholes as we continue towards the uranium mine itself.  The road eventually becomes a very rough track and we have to get out and check ahead a few times before continuing.  The open cut mine is very impressive with a superb blue lake in the bottom.  Signs prohibit swimming but it’s really tempting when we get to the waters edge and see how clear it is, but commonsense prevails.  Retrace our steps and just back on the bitumen we see a track off to our left that leads us to a suitable camping spot.  Settle down for an afternoon sunbathing in our own private nudist camp.  It’s wonderfully peaceful (every so often we find ourselves stopping breathing in order to take in the total silence) and there are surprisingly few flies considering cowpats surround us.    In this part of Australia the cattle graze freely and there are few fences to contain them in any one area.  For the first time this trip we have a bush shower before settling in for the night.



FRIDAY 12 AUGUST – We are rudely awoken in the early hours by something nudging the van.  The cows are on the moo-ve and keep bumping in to us but soon head off.  We get an early moo-ning wake up call when another herd move through.   A little further along the main road we turn off to visit Sun Rock with some aboriginal art.  There’s only one area of rock painting and it’s not very good.  Mount Isa is a huge mining town.  We are absolutely amazed to find that the mine is right on the edge of town with the slag heaps and chimneys looking really ugly.  Australia’s biggest rodeo is being held here this weekend and we learn that today admission is by gold coin $1 or $2 (45p or 90p) whereas tomorrow and Sunday it costs $25 (£11).  Head out to Kalkadoon Park to watch the competitions, which include rope & tie, team roping, saddle bronc, steer wrestling and bull riding, all based on skills used on the stations by these outback cowboys. We’re right next to the airport and it’s amazing to see huge jet planes coming in to land directly behind the arena.  We begin to understand the events as they are repeated in the afternoon.  Sadly in the second round a young cowboy falls straight over the front of the bronco and lands on his head.  He lies completely still and the ambos rush over.  It doesn’t look good when he is stretchered away in the ambulance.  Shortly after another one takes a tumble but only hurts his shoulder.  . We really enjoy it but would not have wanted to watch it all weekend.  When the competitions finish mid afternoon we return to town and wander round the shopping area.  Do a bit of a stock up, as this is the last place where we will see major supermarkets and cheap fuel for over 1000km.   A row of small shops looks like something out of Disney land and very out of place until we discover that it is really a row of motel rooms.  Phone David and hear that he is at home and doing OK but after 6 weeks in plaster he will need physio and won’t be able to work until at least the end of October.  At 7pm there is a Mardi Gras parade and this turns out to be more like a carnival with lots of floats, worth a look as we are here but we don’t think it would merit a special visit.  Return to the rodeo area where there is a large car park.  Tonight we have horses instead of cows for company and background noise from the airport.



SATURDAY 13 AUGUST – Looks like we have driven far enough to be getting clear blue skies each day.  Leaving Mount Isa we see lots of old cars tucked away in the bush with mobs of Aboriginals lurking around in drunken stupors – very sad.  It’s single-track road most of the way to Camooweal and there’s lot of road kill with eagles having a feast.  Cross into the NORTHERN TERRITORY and immediately see someone on roller blades pushing a type of pushchair.  Shortly after this we get behind a big motorhome and trailer with signs on it saying it’s a quad bike ride around Australia raising money for children’s cancer.  Pull up at Avon Downs rest area opposite the Police station where they have a driver reviver with free coffee and biscuits.  At the 24 hour rest area there’s a new toilet, picnic tables, water but little shade.  Whilst I cook up a roast pork dinner Steve walks over to the cancer bus to make a donation and chat to the people.  Ken Tuckey tells Steve that he has previously gone round Australia on a camel and that raised over $250,000 (£110,000) for cancer research.  He’s met the man on skates who is an American doing the circuit for pleasure but he’s having lots of hold ups and keeps falling.  Continue heading west along the Barkly highway with the occasional car zooming past us, there’s no speed limit on open roads in the territory.  Soudan rest area is deeper, has picnic tables, plenty of shade and also bore water.  Settle ourselves in until I get a strange whiff and notice a recently dug grave nearby with a make shift cross (hopefully an animal and not a human grave).  Move a little further away then set about doing the washing, which dries nicely on the stone guard at the front of the van.  It’s a beautiful evening after a cloud free day and we sit out watching the sunset and then the stars.  Another chilly night so we retire into the van but open the curtains when we settle down to sleep so that we can look at all the stars.



SUNDAY 14 AUGUST – It takes a while to warm up in the morning so we try a new plan of setting off in our track suits to put in an hour’s drive before a breakfast stop.  Wonarah Bore is the next good rest area and after breakfast we both wash our hair and take a shower.  Barkly homestead is the only place on this route for fuel and supplies and unleaded petrol is $1.49 (70p), almost English prices.  A sign justifies this, as they have to spend $500 a day running generators to pump the fuel.  The main road continues to Three Ways but we turn north onto the Tablelands Highway.  It’s a single-track road but should be even quieter than the main road.  It is, in the first hour we have1 car overtake us, two coming towards us then nothing for the next hour or so.  Having cleared an area of scrubby bush land we come to wide open plains with massive sections of absolutely nothing.  You can see for miles and miles.  Cattle roam freely here and it’s a question of how many acres do you need per cow as opposed to how many head of cattle you put on each acre.  Many carcasses are dead at the side of the road in various states of decomposition from bloated to just hide and bones.  The first rest area is Brunette Downs, 150km from Barkly homestead.  It’s a shallow area, almost no shade but picnic table, water and friendly flies.  We stop just long enough to eat dinner.  The road begins to pass another bushy area and at approx 180km from Barkly homestead we spot a track on our right leading to a repeater station (big tower with microwave dishes powered by a bank of solar panels).  The track is wide enough for us but has termite mounds hidden in the overgrown centre strip.  They are like solid rock and difficult to break down but we manage to get around them and find ourselves a camping area with a bit of shade. Wearing fly nets and nothing else we sit out to sunbathe all afternoon.  It’s really quiet and at one point we both go out to stand and walk along the main road in the nude, just for the hell of it!  Settle down to sleep with the curtains open so that we can watch the stars.




MONDAY 15 AUGUST – Lie in bed watching the sunrise at about 7.15am.  This is such a nice spot that we set about making a good camping area so we can stop for the day.  With tarpaulins on the ground and the mosquito net above us we create a pleasant area for sitting out and spending the day relaxing. 




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: