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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - September 2004


Today the new tire should be here.

A campfire with the Lads from the UK - [Click for a Larger Image]
A campfire with the Lads from the UK

Yesterday we moved into the camping ground in Georgetown, they have a pool and some other bits we could make use of for a day while we wait out our penance. We plan to head west from here today to a camping spot by the river called "Little River" (I wonder if that is where the band came from?).

This photo was taken a couple of nights ago at the camp outside of Georgetown. We were joined by some lads from the UK who were travelling to Darwin in a rented camper van. They had taken advantage of a "one-dollar-day relocation deal" - the down side was that they had just four days to get from Cairns to Darwin! One thing is for sure - anything that they managed to see on the way was going to be blurry. Good luck lads.





We suggested it would take 6 days for a tire to get to Georgetown - we were wrong! Just after the last update we went to see "Bushie" at the Georgetown tire workshop and alas no tire had arrived with the courier! Well having seen all (i.e. both) the sights of Georgetown, we decided to head towards Croydon to look for a tire there. Ya wouldn't think that it would be so hard to get a tire, I mean it's not like we are wanting a antique feather duster or something equally unusual - it's just a bloody tire!

We are now at the Little River camp, a very nice place near the only river we have seen out here with water. I'm fairly sure that LRB did not come from anywhere around here.





We have spent the last two days at Little River looking for Crocs. We found some! We were very surprised at how shy they were. When warming them selves in the sun on the banks, the slightest noise or tiniest movement sends them into the water at high speed.

Crocs sun baking just 50m from the swimming hole - [Click for a Larger Image]
Crocs sun baking just 50m from the
swimming hole

We met some interesting people at little river and were very tempted to stay longer and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere - but alas we still have a tire issue to resolve.

After unsuccessfully trying a Steve Erwin trick with some rope and a small kangaroo road kill (we did not have a baby to dangle), we headed to Croydon in search of a tire. Success! Along with almost every other conceivable thing you could possibly want to buy, they had a tire to fit the motorhome. One hour later it was fitted and we were on our way to the local lake for a much deserved swim (no crocs in the lake we are told).

We have talked to quite a few people over the last few days about a route - so we have some new ideas. More on that later - it's beer o'clock!



After a good look around Croydon, a few beers with the locals in the pub and numerous dips in the lake, we headed out of Croydon yesterday morning. We stopped around 10:30 at a spot on the map called "Black Bull Siding" - as it turns out, the spot on the map was slightly larger than the place it's self. Black Bull Sidings - population one woman, two children and four dogs. Claim to fame - the only stop for the Gulflander train that travels once each week between Croydon and Normanton (and back (as you would expect)). We decided to wait for the train and take some photos. The woman seems to make a living (if you can described residing in a hot, dusty crap-hole with no power, water or sewage as actually living) by selling coffee and scones to the passengers - they buy, there is nothing else!

Somewhere amongst the collection of rubbish and rusting, disused vehicle parts, there is apparently a place to camp. We decided not to ask how much to camp for the night - had it been free, it would still have been over-priced! Just a few km's down the road we found a quiet place to camp (thanks to Telstra).

Today we drove to Normanton and on to Karumba. These two towns are the only ones in the shire of Carpentaria, a shire larger than the State of Tasmania! We are really in the sticks now!

Karumba is a small seaside town that swells in the winter to accommodate the fishing mad tourists. In the wet season it is probably inaccessible by road. As I write this, Tracey is at the river mouth trying to catch us a barramundi for dinner - I hope she does not end up as bait for one of the large saltwater crocodiles that infest this part of Australia.



I have to report that before we left Karumba we did have a meal of barramundi, unfortunately it came from the local fish and chip shop.

After leaving Karumba we went back through Normanton and then west towards Burketown. We stopped by the Flinders river for the night and watched several large crocodiles lumbering in and out of the water as the day grew warmer.

The following day we headed further west and stopped about 10am at the Leichhardt Falls. There is of course no running water here at this time of the year but it is still a spectacular part of the country. We drove off the road and onto a track leading to a camping area near the river (mistake #1). The track suddenly became sander and we feared getting stuck. As there was nowhere to turn around, we decided to back out (mistake #2). It seemed that we would have to go fairly quickly and hope that our momentum would carry us through the sandy bits. Sadly as we attempted to round one of the corners the front wheels broke through the hard crust and acted like two large anchors. The back wheels responded by following suit and a few nano-seconds later we were in sand up to the front axle and up to the diff at the back (mistake #3 and the crowning glory).

We spent the remainder of that day and all of the following day cutting down gum trees, jacking the motorhome up (one wheel at a time) and building a ramp of logs for the motorhome to drive out of the sand on. The cats watched with interest as we cut down over 30 small trees and lifted the entire motorhome over 600mm and built a small road beneath it.  We were almost there, the motorhome moved about 300mm along our road then started skidding. By now were almost exhausted and decided it was time to seek help. We drove the moke to a house on the nearby cattle station, Floraville. Here we begged some help from Kylie and Ernie.

The river below the Leichheart falls  - [Click for a Larger Image]
The river below the
Leichheart falls

Bright and early the following morning four strong blokes and a very large fork lift extracted us from the sand in less than a minute. It sure made two days of digging, jacking and building look a bit silly. We were extremely grateful, made a donation towards the guys refreshment fund and gave them our heart felt thanks. It is nice to know that people are prepared to help out when you are in a spot of bother.

Now with that excitement out of the way, we were able to explore the surrounding area. I have to say that this has got to be some of the most spectacular country we have yet seen. We can only imagine what the river would look like in the wet season but right now it is a magnet for all of the wild life in the area. We saw huge flocks of birds, kangaroos drinking from small pools of water, lizards and insects of every kind. The odd large splash from the bank reminded us that crocodiles also found the animal life attracted to the water interesting.





Today we made it to Burketown - a fairly friendly place with a nice big (croc inhabited) river that is free to camp near. We have mobile coverage for the first time in many days so this is my chance to send a few emails and update the website. Burketown is one of the best places in the gulf to see the weather phenomena known as "Morning Glory". Morning Glory is described as a large thin rolling bank of cloud that stretches for hundreds of kilometres across the gulf and travels at about 40km/h. It requires a particular set of conditions in the Cape York region to produce a Morning Glory. Apparently it acts like a giant combine-harvester. The photos we saw of it at the local information centre were spectacular. We don't expect to experience one as we are told that the weather conditions are currently not right.



Long time - no mobile coverage!

From Burketown we travelled the dusty corrugated road to Gregory Downs. This tiny place features a pub and a store and - well that's about it really. The barmaid told us of the camping area near the Gregory River as we washed the dust from out throats. The Gregory River, in contrast to the muddy croc habitats we have been seeing for the last few months,  is beautifully crystal clear. It is spring-fed from 140km away in the Northern Territory. After setting up camp and a quick swim we headed back to the pub for the Friday BBQ.

A map of the last two months travel - [Click for a Larger Image]
A map of the last two months travel

The camp at the Gregory River is one of the best free camps (or paid camps for that matter) that we have stayed at. It is a large flat area that follows the river under both the old and new bridges. We met a number of interesting people (and almost bought a boat from one couple). After drifting down the river we climbed out of the water near the camp of Anthony and Fiona Gollan who had just set up camp. These guys were on three weeks holiday from their jobs in Sydney. Anthony is the operations manager for a company that turns organic food waste into electricity (like Mr Fusion from 'Back to the Future'). He has promised to send me one of their first portable "Baby Fusion" units as soon as he invents it.

We relaxed and kept cool with frequent dips in the river for a few days before heading South towards Cloncurry. From here we will head into Mt Isa (to hopefully meet up with our replacement credit cards) then head north again to visit Lawn Hill national park.





Mount Isa - we have been here for a few days now. We found a reasonable camping spot on the way to the lake - it's quiet and has lots of space for the cats to run around. We spent yesterday at the lake and even went for a brief dive to examine the bottom of this man-made water hole. The visibility reached almost 2 inches at one stage - it was like diving at night without a torch. Well at least it was cool.

After persistent reminders from Tracey (not to be confused with nagging (apparently a totally different thing)) - I went to get my Queensland drivers license today. I spent much of the last two days revising the Queensland road rules, including weights, lengths speeds etc for each license type (which incidentally differ from other states).I had to pass the written tests for car, motorbike and heavy vehicle. Fortunately the actual test was trivial when compared to the task of dealing with the bureaucratically trained counter staff. One of the identification requirements is an official document with our Queensland address (Tracey's brothers address on the Gold Coast). However the rules had recently been changed and a bank statement is no longer acceptable proof of address - but, a receipt from a local caravan park IS acceptable!!! What the ...?  So we booked into a caravan park for the night (just to get the damn receipt). Then proceed to complete the paperwork and sit the test.

With that excitement behind us (and a shiny new license in hand)  we set out on a mine tour. There is no question that the quality of the guides make or break a tourist "experience type" attraction. Our two guides, Steve and Morrie, were fantastic.

All dressed for mining... - [Click for a Larger Image]
All dressed for mining...

Having worked in the mine for many years, they had no shortage of stories to tell. The tour was well set out and had working equipment showing the history of mining from the early 50's to the massive electric and air operated equipment of the present day. The sheer scale of the mine here is difficult to comprehend, most numbers (volumes of rock, ore, water air etc) were in the hundreds of millions or hundreds of billions. The cost of the tour was about $40ea and took almost 3 hours, we enjoyed it and thought that it was very good value for money.

We have just a few more things to do and get in Mt Isa before we head north again to Lawn Hill and on into the Northern Territory.  Communications are likely to be somewhat sparse for the next few weeks, so you may not hear from us for a little while.


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