Monday, August 31, 2015

Mt Isa to Birdsville, Qld.

Following a relaxing stay in Mt Isa visiting some of our family, it was once again time to hitch up and move on. We have seen most of the Mt Isa 'points of interest' on previous visits therefore sightseeing was not one of our priorities on this visit. Justin helped me in making modifications to the caravan and installing additional gauges. I was planning to instal a diesel heater to the caravan but Australia Post failed to deliver the package to Mt Isa. This is one of the disadvantages of living in a remote location.

As we left Mt Isa late in the morning, and we knew that would be the case, we had planned to camp at Peak Creek Bore RA, only a short distance from 'The Isa'. Even though the facilities provided there were excellent, the RA was way too exposed to the prevailing SE winds. We continued onto Dajarra Community. They have provided 6 free powered sites, with hot showers available as well. We left some dollars at the local Museum and the Pub in gratitude. Next morning we were on the move towards Boulia. The road is fully sealed but only one lane in width, necessitating continual slowing and moving over on to the gravel edge. When a road train was looming, vacating the roadway completely is the preferred option! We found it surprising the volume of traffic on this section of road. We had planned on camping at the Burke River free camp at Boulia but the area was an utter dust bowl. Not unexpected really, seeing they haven't had rain for three seasons now! It was into the Boulia CP and camping on an unpowered, grassed site. You can read our notes about Boulia from our previous visit during October 2014.

In the morning we refuelled and made our way towards Bedourie. This area of Queensland is all new to us. The road surface between Boulia and Bedourie is excellent and two lanes all the way except for about 6 km of gravel and even that was not corrugated and was easy travelling. Once again we had planned on breaking the trip with an intermediate stop-over, this time at Chappy's Camp. There was water in the river but the camp area was extremely dusty. We continued on into Bedourie, camping two nights at the Shire CP.

Driving through the Diamantina Shire is a surreal experience, passing extensive plains of red gibber on both sides of the road and intersected with flat flood plain areas that would be grasslands after a wet season. The Shire's only industry is Beef Cattle Grazing, the area is renowned for the quality of stock produced. Of course, as with all outback Shires, Tourism is also very important and they do provide great facilities for the traveller. 

Bedourie, with a population of 120, is a very neat, well maintained town. There is a great aquatic centre hosting a hot natural artesian spa. The water is 40 deg C and seems to be very therapeutic to a weary body. 10 - 15 minutes is about as much as you can bear but it sure relaxes the body.

Discrimination is alive and kicking in this corner of Queensland. The discrimination is perpetrated by the Queensland Government and Telstra Corp. There is no mobile phone service in Bedourie, the administration centre of the Diamantina Shire. Windorah also misses out on a mobile phone service. Council has made calls to Telstra and they have come back with "stump up $21,000,000 and we will install it". Of course Telstra will then, no doubt, greedily accept all the revenue generated from these towers for itself. In comparison, the Aboriginal Community at Dajarra, with a population similar to Bedourie, has full mobile phone service. The working people of the Diamantina Shire are definitely being discriminated against and isolated from the remainder of Queensland and Australia. Further more, there are, reportedly, 60,000 tourists to the Shire each year as most of these travellers would be customers of Telstra Corp. they are being denied mobile access while in the Shire. Access they are paying for!

Onto Cuttaburra Crossing RA for the next night, maybe two! Cuttaburra Crossing is on The Eyre Creek downstream from Bedourie. Considering that we have been consistently meeting dusty RA in our travels before now Cuttaburra Crossing is a gem. No dust here! This is a large permanent waterhole in The Eyre Creek and the bird life is bountiful here. One can only wonder what the bird life would build to in 'The Wet'. Cattle in prime condition are coming to the creek for water. Some of the cows look as though a calving event is imminent. Life is very interesting here at the waterhole, with pythons in the toilets and small marsupials skittering around after dark. Somewhat reluctantly we left the waterhole after two nights and travelled through to Birdsville but pausing at The Cacoory Homestead Ruins and a stand of Waddi Trees along the way.

Birdsville is building in traveller population daily in the lead up to the annual horse race meeting that is The Birdsville Cup, held on the first weekend of September each year. As there is little else to do in Birdsville we opted not to wait the two weeks for the race weekend. We free camped for one night on the black soil near the river and with some rain forecast we decided to leave while we could still get out. We collected water, fuel, beer and photos then drove out of town towards Windorah.

Dajarra Community, looking from the camp ground towards extensive cattle yards. Dajarra was once the rail head for all the cattle transport in Outback Queensland. 

The Museum at Dajarra.

The Dajarra Hotel.

Sculpture at the entrance to Bedourie. This represents the Dust Storms that frequent the area. Thankfully there were no storms while we were there!

As the sign is meant to convey, The Bedourie Community Centre.

The Medical Centre at Bedourie.

Bedourie is surrounded by a high levee to protect the town from flood waters from The Eyre Creek.

All the towns facilities are within the levee system including the town water and sewerage services.

The Mud Hut, one of the original buildings in Bedourie.

Another long time building of Bedourie is the Hotel. Very plain looking exterior and very basic inside as well. Very limited beer choices here!

Visitor Picnic Area and Fallen Service Personell Cenotaph.

The Natural Artesian Hot Spa at Bedourie.

A great Sunset from the levee in Bedourie.

A WW11 Blitz has bee abandoned at Cuttaburra Crossing.

The Blitz still retains some of the engine, gear box and most of the suspension.

The two toilets were being utilised by this python as a resting place as it slept off and digested the great meal that was in it's stomach.

From the bird hide, looking up along Eyre Creek.

Looking downstream along Eyre Creek. Two pelicans sunning themselves as cattle come down to water.

The Pelican Patrol on Eyre Creek late in the afternoon.

The four roomed Cacoory Homestead Ruins.

Waddi Trees are native to the Birdsville Area. These trees are estimated to be about 1000 years old. The timber is so hard it cannot be cut, sawn or drilled. Nor can it be burned. The information sign states that the Waddi Tree is a form of Acacia but it sure has the foliage of a She-Oak or a Bull-Oak.

The very plain looking Birdsville Hotel.

The Birdsville Hotel Beer Garden is quite large.

Unheard of in the Birdsville Hotel Bar, Jude is having a Cappuccino.

These ruins were once The Royal Hotel at Birdsville.

The Birdsville Roadhouse and General Store.

The Information Centre at Birdsville.

Looking across the football ground to The Bakery.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Katherine, NT to Mount Isa, Qld.

On leaving Katherine we planned on travelling distance and not staying very long in any one place. Somehow we caught a 'bug', an ailment, the need to get home to Queensland. Predominately our stops were at Free Rest Areas along the Highways. The Rest Areas we stayed at were, King River, Warlock, Newcastle Waters, 41 Mile Bore, Avon Downs and Georgina River Waterholes at Camooweal. We also stayed at two paid stays, the first at Daly Waters Pub and the second at Banka Banka Station.

While travelling South from Katherine on the Stuart Highway we drove through many areas of 'burning off'. These 'burn off's' were of low intensity but created large volumes of smoke. The 'burn off's' came up to the edge of the sealed highway and 100's of Kites lined the sides of the highway waiting for the fleeing residents of the roadside bushland. The Kites must have had a great feast as many of them had major difficulty in launching themselves into the air as we drove through. Fortunately we didn't hit any!

Daly Waters Pub is quirky and lives up to it's well known reputation, although now it has 6 different beers 'On Tap' and delivers a fabulous Beef or Barra Dinner with Salad for $29.50. I was served this massive fillet of Barra, two thirds of which satisfied me but I was still able to devour the remainder. Along with several Pints of Great Northern Beer.

The stay at Banka Banka Station is almost a 'must do' for travellers on the Stuart Highway. At $10 per head per night for a fully grassed camp site with reticulated water but no power. There is a huge Fire Pit for the evening Happy Hour and the shower/toilet facilities are great.

The free camp area alongside the Georgina River, outside of Camooweal, is huge, maybe several kilometres along the river, although we didn't investigate all of the area we could see it on our mapping.

After our 'breather' in Camooweal it was onto Mt Isa for a longer stay, this time with Family. It has been nearly 12 months since we last saw them so we have much to catch up with! I have also planned some innovations to the caravan, more news on that at a later time. 

When we eventually leave "The Isa" our direction of travel might surprise some people. You will need to check back in a couple of weeks when the Blog resumes reporting.

The Main Street of Mataranka. We had planned on visiting the Hot Thermal Pools here but as it was a holiday Weekend in NT the parking was in extreme short supply.

A giant Termite Mound in a park at Mataranka. I am not sure whether it is natural or man made!

We stopped in Larrimah beside the burnt out Road House for a morning tea break.

Jude outside The Iconic Daly Waters Pub.

Jude alongside traffic control lights in the beer garden!

About to book a helicopter flight over Daly Waters.

The Camp Kitchen Area at Banka Banka Station. The huge Fire Pit is located behind this building.

The Power House for the station. Nothing for the campers though!

At the Reception Area of Banka Banka this huge spider, about 1.5 metres across the legs.

From the Look Out looking over the station buildings and the campground beyond.

On the walk out to the Water Hole, Jude asked, "I wonder who carried these drums of rocks out here?" Just joking! The whole 2 km walk is a continuous rock scramble.

The overview of the Water Hole.

And a Close Up.

Back Home in Queensland! The first town we came to was Camooweal. A long way from anywhere!

The busy main street!

Copper Statue outside the Camooweal Town Hall in recognition of the Stockman from the early days of the area.

The Camooweal General Store is no longer in business.

Alongside the General Store is the Camooweal Heritage Centre.

Our riverside camp site at the Georgina River Water Hole. It is an easy 20 minute walk into Camooweal from here. We totally enjoyed our two day stay here.

We had some noisy neighbours for most of each day. A tree full of Corellas. Every time the shadow of an 'ever circling' Kite came over the tree they would take flight in a raucous manner.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Katherine Gorge, NT.

Our primary reason for our stop-over in Katherine was to take in The 2 Gorges Boat Tour of Katherine Gorge. This particular tour is very popular with visitors to Katherine, so it was essential for us to book in advance. Katherine Gorge is spectacular but pretty much like all other gorges in Northern Australia, but we are happy that we have been there. 

In the early stages of the gorge the rock formations are not so high.

But as we progress deeper, the vertical cliffs become much higher.

This Johnson Crocodile eventually tired of our intrusion and slide into the water. As they normally do!

Into the second section of the gorge now, the river is narrower and the gorge walls much more rugged.

There are many 'over hangs'.

Caves, such as this one, that has nesting Fairy Martins in it.

During the Record Flood of Katherine in 1998, the water level was above the upper opening on the rock wall.

There are many seepage points along the gorge walls that provided sustenance for vegetation.

You might recall the old Australian Film, "Jedda". Well this is Jedda's Leap that was a feature of the film.