To The Corner Store!

After leaving Boulia we returned to Mackay as Greg’s Aunt Liz had sadly passed away after a long illness and attended her funeral. We stayed for a few days then had a nice ‘sea change’ camp about 50 kms north at Balls Bay(beautiful) near Cape Hillsborough for three nights before heading out west again.

We passed through Clermont, the Gemfields,Tambo and had three nights at Charleville out on the Warrego River. Moving on we stopped at Cunnamulla for lunch and nearly died when stepping out of the car with shorts and t-shirt on, cold!. We headed straight to the bakery for a nice hot pie and coffee instead of the usual salad sandwich! From here we drove onto Eulo and camped the night alongside the Paroo River.

Next day we arrived at Thargomindah to find out about 400 ‘Variety Bash’ members were arriving in the afternoon enroute from Sydney to Darwin. ‘Surly Shirley’ of the pub was putting a band on and the community a smorgasbord dinner to raise money for the RFDS. We walked into town to enjoy a night out with the locals and ‘Bashers’ and rubbed shoulders with John Paul Young and John Williamson whom are both members of the Bash.

We then headed out to Burke and Wills’ Dig Tree calling into Noccundra Pub (out in the middle of nowhere) on the Wilson River for a coldie!  We camped on the Cooper Creek both at the Dig Tree and Innaminka where we went next. I was surprised there was water in the creek but there’s deep waterholes that never dry out. So water was never a problem for the expedition which Burke led from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentria in 1860 but his and Wills’ stupid decisions, arrogance, prejudice and refusal to except help and food from the aboriginals led to their starvation and death! John King then sought out the tribes and lived with them until he was rescued about five months later and was the sole survivor of the northern expedition. King apparently also sired an aboriginal girl by the name of Annie ‘Missy’ King, probably unbeknown to him, who lived and died in the Innamincka/Tibooburra area.

From Innaminka it was then onto Cameron’s Corner bordering QLD, SA and NSW and has a corner store/pub for the night. The countryside out here is absolutely mind blowing! Everyone we speak to travelling out here are equally amazed at how the landscape changes consistently but at the same time the scenery just goes on and on forever. There’s hundreds of creek crossings, hence the name ‘channel country’ and would be great to see in the wet but without a doubt from the air! Then you cross over big red sand dunes and lots of them, feels like riding on a roller coast! Just when you think the country would be worthless you come across mobs of big fat healthy looking cattle. And then there’s the many, many oil and gas wells scattered across hundreds of kilometres. Yes, it’s certainly amazing country but I still don’t think I could live out here!

We are now heading back to the coast having come through Tibooburra and Mutawintji NP and will be back next week for a couple of months work to top up the coffers before heading off again!

 

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2017 Boulia Camel Races – 21st Anniversary.

Seeing we were out this way and the timing was right, the ‘Melbourne Cup’ of camel races was a ‘must do’! And what a weekend it was! Camping was at the racecourse and about 3,500 people turned up for it so as you can imagine it was like a caravan and camping show but in the dust!
The races and entertainment started Friday night with mower races, official opening and Chris Cook, a Slim Dusty tribute band. At this stage there’s mostly ‘grey nomads’ and other travellers including a few that went to Birdsvilles ‘Big Bash’. Come Saturday the workers and locals from Mt.Isa and surrounds turned up to let their hair down, and they did!
So at 10.30am the camel races kicked off and quickly got through the 400m heats. We thought we were on a roll as we got the first two races up (got some tips off the trainers the night before) but that was the end of our luck! Next up was the kids ‘sheep tagging’ where they sent a sheep with tape on its back into the ring and the kid had to get the tape off and run back to start. The quickest won but not so easy and these poor kids were exhausted!
Now it’s the grown ups turn but with young wild camels that was caught out in the bush for the occasion. These guys and gals have to put the tape on the camel, run back to start, get the tape back and return to start again. Hilarious! Have you seen camels kick? They kick out front, back and sides! There was a few whacks and bruises!
In the afternoon they had the Boulia School Calcutta foot race where each child was auctioned and half the prize money went to the school ($1600) and the winning punter received the other half. One kid was auctioned for $500 and didn’t win but just shows you how generous these punters are. Next up was the 1000m heats to see who qualified for the 1500m Boulia Cup running on Sunday. These longer races takes them 20 minutes to walk round to the start!
That night the crowd was entertained with a spectacular fireworks display and young upcoming country singer Ali S and band.
The last of the races ran Sunday morning with the favourite winning the Cup. Afterwards there were novelty races including yabbies, three legged and a tug a war with more live music but by now we were happy to chill out by the fire with a quiet one and some company.
Boulia region is also renowned for the ‘Min Min’ lights. There have been many encounters with these weird lights probably similar to car lights but they can split, go around you, alongside you, chase you etc but there’s no noise and they don’t affect animals or stock! I think there has been too many different stories to not believe but they can’t be explained.
Boulia also has quite a few prehistoric fossils on display found in their region. They are awesome and after seeing a map of where the inland sea use to be (and its a big chunk out of Australia) it makes you see our wide open outback in a different light and wonder at what use to roam across it many million years ago! Probably should have paid more attention at school but there’s nothing like being out there to understand and appreciate it!

 

 

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Lawn Hill Gorge to Mt. Isa.

Loved Lawn Hill Gorge! Absolutely stunning and encourage everyone to see it when up this way. We couldn’t get a camp site at the national park as it was booked out for about four weeks, due to the school holidays no doubt, but stayed at Adels Grove just 12 kms away. A bit pricey but it was nice camping under the grove even though it’s not great for solar panels. They also had Lawn Hill Creek running through and was a ‘take your breath away’ relief from the heat and great for canoeing. We even saw a large freshwater crocodile (we hope) on the edge of the water.
At Lawn Hill Gorge itself there are a few walks you can do but the best is canoeing through the gorge to small waterfalls and a swim at the other end in the warmer spring fed water. The creek itself is a stunning blue green colour and crystal clear so you can see the fish and waterlillies. The Rangers here have got to love their jobs living in ‘resort style’ bungalows, outdoor entertaining and their own private excess to the creek and canoeing.
Afterwards we headed onto Camooweal stopping at Riversleigh world heritage fossil site on the way. Riversleigh now is quite arid but was once a lush rainforest with limestone that has preserved mammal fossils from 33 million years ago. Only part of the site is open to the public and some fossilised limb bones of a large flightless bird can be seen, known as ‘Big Bird’. (Maureen will appreciate this)!
When we got to Camooweal we camped on the edge of town alongside the Georgina River with about 100 other vans and trailers. Nearby there are several ‘sinkholes’ with underground caves, unaccessible though, and in town the ‘Drovers Camp’ museum is worthy of a visit!
Not happy about the temperature dropping though, we’ve had to get long pants, jumpers and extra blankets out first time for a few months!
We are currently in Mt. Isa for a couple of days camped in the overflow park right alongside the mine which runs 24/7 and just ‘hums’ consistently. Surprisingly, the five caravan parks are full so this was the only option besides leaving town but we’re all pretty chuffed as it’s free!
We’ve heard that quite a lot of people staying in town have come from ‘The Big Red Bash’ at Birdsville. Apparently there were about 8000 people there so about 3500 to 4000 vans and trailers. The day after the concert finished everyone had to be out by 12 noon and it took them four hours to get from ‘Big Red’ to Birdsville which is only about 35 kms.
Now we’re restocking (didn’t think I’d be so happy to see a Woolworths or Coles after the exorbitant prices and lack of choices we’ve come across), refuelling, wheel alignment and tyre repair, or another new one, bit of a look around then heading off to the races!
Henry, hurry up and get well! And everyone else, we hope you are all fighting fit!

Cheers for now!

 

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The Cape to the Savannah!

We made our way south down the east coast of Cape York and as predicted was windy all the way. Our only ‘coast camp’ was at Captain Billy’s Landing and while there we were told about a croc slide on the beach north of the campground coming from a creek. A photo of Greg shows you how wide it was. The next day at low tide when you could get around the rocks to the south we spotted a croc on the edge of the water below another creek. It certainly blended in with the rocks! Funny how a few people we have spoke to, travelled the Cape and didn’t see one croc. They must have their eyes closed as we’ve seen them everywhere, in creeks, rivers, billabongs, ocean and beaches!

Next we went to Portland Road and Chilli Beach but camped about 20 kms inland in a rainforest out of the wind. Around this area is home for the ‘Eclectus Parrot’ which we heard but couldn’t see and the ‘Green Python’. We spotted a juvenile one and they are yellow till about nine months when they change to green. This Python was across the road from where we camped and came out at night in the same spot. Word got around it was there and even the ranger came out one night to take photos. Poor thing would have been sick of torches and flashes going off in its face.

Portland Road ‘village’ has about half a dozen houses in a protected bay and looked very nice where as Chilli Beach was totally littered with rubbish which blows in with the trade winds and mostly comes from overseas and passing ships.They reckon every year when they have a big clean up they pick up around 4000 thongs and about 6000 plastic bottles!

While in this area we visited Lockhart River, an aboriginal community that was surprisingly bigger than we expected. Highly recommended is their art gallery where you could see some of the artists at work out the back.There’s lots of beautiful works, traditional and modern piled up for sale and they have regular exhibitions around Australia as well as an upcoming Singapore exhibition.

Finally we went to Lakefield National Park which was still closed on the way up. Here are the remains of old Lakefield and Laura Homesteads as well as many billabongs and birdlife including magnificent Brolgas and Sarus Cranes.

Backtracking a little, we cut over to the Karumba to Musgrave road from Laura which showed 4WD track on the map. Turned out to be better than most gravel roads and we just had to watch the ‘dips’. We crossed the Mitchell River that was only about a half metre deep at the time but quite wide and as it was getting late and others were camped up we did too even though there were ‘no camping’ signs. We were going to pull up beforehand but came across kilometres of burning off so wasn’t a good idea! The next morning the irate farmer came along and hunted everyone off, bad sport!

We continued on our way to Karumba and stayed for four nights. We were lucky to get a site as the five caravan parks were fairly full and mostly with long term ‘grey nomads’. They’re mad fisherman and the queue at the boat ramp everyday was entertaining to watch. It’s funny how they all turn up at the same time and again all come back in about the same time!

We saw a bloke catch a ‘queenie’ on the beach and he wasn’t real impressed. Said he would take it back to camp and see if anyone wanted it and no doubt it would probably end up being fish cakes. They get a bit fussy with their fish!

While here we did a ‘croc spotting and sunset cruise’ up the Norman River and out to the Gulf. We also found out that the banana and tiger prawns from here are supplied to Woolworths, so now you know where they come from!

Normanton was our next stop and we stayed about 20kms out of town on Leichhardt Lagoon station. We expected maybe half a dozen others to be camped there but was closer to 50 caravans. Some come here every year for a couple of months and I believe a lot of others get there for the Saturday night three coarse meal for six bucks. We missed that one! Also barramundi is being caught in the nearby Norman River and we saw some good ones come in between 70 and 84 cms long. No one was giving them ones away!

One day we enjoyed a ride on the historic ‘Gulflander’ motor train (It’s got a ‘crash’ gearbox!) and was built in the 1880’s to link the Croydon goldfields with the river port of Normanton and has run continuously ever since, though these days for tourism.

Normanton is also home of the ‘Purple Pub’ (yes, we had a beer and lunch there) and also the ‘life size’ replica of the biggest crocodile ever shot. A brave woman by the name of Krystina Pawlowski, a crocodile hunter, shot it in 1957 in the Norman River. It measured in at 8.63 metres and to this day is the largest recorded in the Guinness Book of Records! Could you even imagine coming across one this size? I know I’d crap myself for sure!

So we are currently at Burketown for a few days camped near the Albert River and will go to Adels Grove and Lawn Hill national park on Monday. Not much to see here but we did catch ourselves a nice mud crab…..yummmmm!

Saw these ‘clowns’ in Burketown with their truck and large old boat sitting on a trailer with one broken axle, one bent one and two stuffed tyres. Later they were at the boat ramp with piles of ‘jumping castles’ and who knows what else which they loaded onto the boat to take to Mornington Island for NAIDOC week. The boat was overloaded, on a tilt and they had 150 kms to go. We expected to see all their gear floating back in with the tide and Marine Rescue going out to save them! Might happen yet as they still have to get back, let’s hope not!

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Weipa to ‘The top’.

What a great trip it’s been so far! We went into Gunshot crossing via the bypass road and got there in time to see a few young blokes having fun in the ‘extreme’ crossing. You’ll see with the photos that the drop is vertical and the mud was so deep and boggy they had to winch themselves out. We camped there the night and later on four vehicles came in and they apparently took four hours to double winch themselves through Palm Creek which has steep entry and exits. So by the time they got to Gunshot they’d had enough fun for the day and took the ‘chicken track’!
The next morning they left before us and continued up the Telegraph track for 37kms to Fuit Bat Falls while we went the 115km long way and still got there before them! It was great to be able to swim in ‘croc free’ water even though there were heaps of people and a tour bus as well. Imagine the peak time still to come!
Next, under the Rangers’ guidance we went the long,’easy’ way to Eliot Falls as the short way involved driving through a metre deep water and we didn’t want to drag the camper trailer through that or do any electrical damage to the car. It took us two hours to drive approximately 30kms through washed out, deep rutted bloody creek crossings without doing any damage! Once again the falls and the swim at the end of the day was bliss and the best part being we had it all to ourselves.
No wonder!
A couple of days later when we left we went the short way out and at the creek crossing you had the option of going through the deep water or swing left and up a steep bank which we did, but lost a couple of rear trailer legs for the effort but, it only took 15 minutes to get back to the main road. That was our little bit of Telegraph Track adventure and we came out better then a lot of others we’d seen who did most or all of it!
We carried on to Bamaga and stayed at Seisia for a few nights. You think Thailand has problems with dogs! There’s a few poor mutts wandering around here but the stray horses outnumber them by far. Amazing to see them wandering around town and the campground though a bit of a worry if your in a swag as a couple of blokes next to us were. I don’t think they appreciated goodnight kisses from them!
From here we did a few small trips around the area and out to Mutee Head where there’s some great camps on the beach. This is also the area where the islanders from Saibai moved to 70 years ago due to their island being flooded with huge tides and monsoons, before relocating to Bamaga. We were here for the 70 year anniversary and watched their street parade and celebration. Man, they love their bright colours. They look so happy!
We did our own little island getaway going to Thursday Island for the day then hopping over to Horn Island for a night. Definitely not a 5 star luxury resort holiday destination but does have a great museum and WW11 history and relics. Horn Island was the most forward Australian Air Force base and had approximately 5000 allied forces stationed on it. It was also the second most bombed area after Darwin, but the least known about. Today they are still finding plane wrecks, batteries, trenches etc.with the help of maps the old veterans drew up when they use to have reunions. Sadly they no longer have them as there are very few left and are in their 90’s.
Anyone thinking about moving to Thursday Island can expect to pay about $1500 a week rent and the groceries are more then double the price back home. Everything comes here on a cargo boat from Cairns weekly.
Another different custom here is their unveiling of family members tombstones. After the burial it could be up to ten years or longer before they unveil the tombstone (which is like another wake) depending on different circumstances such as mourning, finances or multiple unveilings at once.
Finally, four months after leaving the Central Coast we have made it to the ‘tip’ of mainland Australia! Yee haa!
Now turning south to pick up what we missed on the way up, mainly on the east side of the Cape!
IT WILL BE WINDY! They don’t tell you that in the brochures!

 

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Watch “70 year celebration of movement from the island Saibai to Bamaga.” on YouTube

While in Bamaga we got to see the 70 year celebration of movement from the island Saibai to Bamaga. They moved from the island to mainland because of huge tides and monsoon and resided in an old military camp at Mutee Heads until they relocated to Bamaga a better area.  After the parade they continued with dances, speeches and feasting but we left after the dances.

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Coen to Weipa.

Heading on up the PDR (Peninsula Development Road) we called into Musgrave Telegraph Station which is the only one still standing. Nowadays it’s a roadhouse and campground servicing locals and tourists alike and has a small display on the history of the station and telegraph line.
Further up the road we stayed at Coen, an old gold mining town for two nights at a ‘freebie’ on the Coen River and took in the museum and walked the town which didn’t take long at all!
Next stop was Weipa, a Bauxite mining town and also a favourite fishing spot as most tourists brought their own boats with them. We did a mine and town tour while here and chucked a line in with no luck but saw some locals teaching a young boy traditional fishing. I doubt if they had much luck either since the younger kids were splashing and jumping around enough to scare any fish off!
Just north of Weipa about 60 kms is Pennefather River and beach camping where we went for four nights. Absolutely beautiful and the sunsets are magic. Such a shame you can’t swim there or shouldn’t anyway. We weren’t there long when we saw what we thought was a tree floating offshore but when looking through the binoculars saw it was a rather large croc, about five or six metres (no joke). The photo shows him only about 100 metres offshore. Later that night we shone the touch along the beach looking for red eyes and yep, there was some coming along about a metre offshore. The next night I accidentally picked our friends eyes up again with the head torch while eating dinner. He was parked on the beach below us and eventually moved on. Now we are thinking he’s stalking us and thank God our camp is up high! We never saw him again but I’m sure he was around somewhere.
Just out was a reef and inside was literally bubbling with fish and big ones, probably salmon mostly. We were basically hitting them on the head with bait, lures and live bait but still couldn’t catch one, typical for us. Along comes this bloke, pulls up, casts out, sits down and then starts reeling them in! Bastard!
We drove down to the river one day and found quite a few people camped there and most with boats as well. There we caught one cod that we got a meal out of and one shovel nose shark which we let go.
So after a great relaxing four days we drove back to Weipa, stocked up and headed off again.

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Cape Trib to Cooktown.

We travelled the Bloomfield track and got over ok but what an experience! Valium wouldn’t have gone astray! The worse parts were two ranges we had to go over being the Donovan and the Cowie and were straight up and down steep. These we had to use low range first gear to pull the trailer up and hold us back going down the other side. The first one was gravel and I was a bit worried thinking it might be slippery as we’d had a few days of rain and the second one is now concreted both sides. But all turned out good and we can now tick the Bloomfield Track off the list!
We called into Bloomfield Waterfall and saw our first crocodile this trip basking on a rock at the bottom. No swimming in this one!
The iconic Lion’s Den Hotel was our next stop for a beer and lunch. The interior is covered in people’s names and comments. This tradition was started in the 1800’s by workers from the nearby Lion’s Den mine who use to write their wages on the wall and work out how much they had left to spend! Couldn’t leave without leaving our mark for a donation!
Further on we stopped at the Black Mountain lookout which is amazing and looked liked someone just dumped piles of huge black boulders.
The next four nights we spent at Cooktown which is another small laid back historic town. The locals(the white ones) are very proud of their history as this is where Captain Cook beached the Endeavour in June 1770 for repairs after running aground on a reef. They have one of the six cannons which was thrown overboard to lighten the ship and also the anchor he had to cut loose on display in the museum along with other relics. These were only found about 48 years ago!
Cooktown became a bustling port after gold was discovered in1873 in the Palmer River region. Maytown was one of the main towns in the goldfields and is now just a ghost town with old mining relics scattered throughout the area and this was where we visited next for a few days camping alongside the Palmer River.
We are now on the move after conflicting reports on roads conditions of Cape York. Some say ‘yes, all roads open’ and national parks say ‘all parks still closed’. We met a couple the other day coming back from the ‘the tip’ who said all was open so we are just going to head on up and take it as it comes. What we don’t see on the way up we’ll see on the way back hopefully,
Cheers for now!

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Cairns to Cape Tribulation.

We thought Airlie Beach had lots of backpackers but found Cairns has even more! But there’s also a mixture of other and older tourist about as well. The CBD and esplanade is very chic with shoulder to shoulder bars, al fresco cafes and restaurants. And just about every other shop besides your souvenir, clothing and convenience stores were Greyhound travel centres on every corner.  You would also expect Cairns to have beautiful white sandy beaches but it’s actually built on mud flats. There are two photos taken from the same spot, one looking across the mud flats to the marina and the other across the man made lagoon built on the esplanade and especially enjoyed by the backpackers.

We rode on the historic Kuranda railway and returned by sky rail over the rainforest while the car was getting a service and wheel alignment. It turned out to be a very expensive day and we reckon we got totally ripped off by the smooth talking manager at Midas! Too late now!

We did the usual sightseeing around different beaches, waterfalls and dams before moving onto Port Douglas. We liked Port with it’s laid back tropical but oppulant feel about it. Saturday was market day which was bigger than we expected and amazing stuff for sale from alternate to high end. Some food I wasn’t too sure of and if I ate I would end up hallucinating or not!

Next was onto Daintree to catch the ferry to Cape Tribulation. Daintree is a nice little village and their main tourist attraction seems to be river cruises and crocodile spotting and of course rainforest tours.

We camped at Noah’s Beach at Cape Trib and the first couple of days were great. After that, rain, rain and more rain!  Anyway we still saw all we could with rainforest walks and read all about the mating habits of the mangrove trees, fascinating! Really!

Greg was a bit disappointed expecting Cape Trib to be full of hippies and way out there but these days it’s full of Eco lodges and hostels.

We’ve put a couple of photos of these exotic tropical fruit we came across selling on the side of the road called Mangosteen. Never heard or seen them before so we pulled in to get some. Really nice and sweet and the inside is like mandarine segments. I don’t know how they usually eat or plate them up but we just got into them.

Another photo of Greg out with his trusty chainsaw when there was a tree across the road. You will look at it and think we could have just picked it up and tossed it but as it’s a rainforest tree its full of water and the end was loaded with stag horns. We met the girls in the photo later at camp and they were a little concerned why he just happened to have a chainsaw in the car!

Next onto the Bloomfield track and Cooktown.

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Paronella Park.

Just south west of Innisfail is an old castle ruins that was the dream and creation of a young Spanish man. Some of you may already know of it and been there but I’m going to give you a short version and you can google the full story yourself. Or better still if your up this way, just go and see it.
Jose’ Paronella arrived at Innisfail in 1913 and over 11 years built his wealth by working hard, buying, improving and selling cane farms until he found and brought his dream 13 acres with a waterfall to build his castle. Meanwhile he returned to Spain to marry his fiancé and bring her to Australia but found she’d moved on and married someone else therefore he married her younger sister instead and they returned to build his dream.
So they built their castle, cottage, movie theatre/ ballroom, tennis courts, tunnels, bridges, pathways, staircases, entertaining area, change rooms for swimming, picnic area, tables and so much more all made by hand mixed concrete. Then they planted 7000 tropical plants and trees and added NQ’s first hydro electric plant to light up the lot and opened the park to the public in 1935.
It’s mind blowing how much work they put into the place and he also hand made over 500 concrete plant holders and something like 8000 balustrades. Jose’ passed away in 1948 and it since passed through the family until his daughter sold in 1977.
Sadly though over the years the place has been through floods, cyclones and in 1979 was devastated by fire.
The current owners were holidaying when they came across the park which was overgrown and in a very bad state. But they brought it and with lots of hard work and determination they cleared and made the park safe to open once again to the public.
There’s also a small caravan park attached which Jose’s son created and Mark and Judy, the new owners are building a new park in the near future behind the pub across the road which they also brought. Smart people!
It’s certainly a credit to Jose’ and his family for this outstanding masterpiece they built and also to Mark and Judy for bringing it up to where it is now saving a big piece of history.and sharing Jose’s story and dream!

 

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