WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE GREGORY DOWNS TO ADELS GROVE 91kms
We had a fairly leisurely pack up and departure, not having far to go.
It was hard to hook up the van – the jockey wheel was wedged in the river pebbles. I really should have thought to put down a board to rest it on! John became really impatient with my efforts.
It was a pleasant enough run to Adels Grove. The way was fairly flat, sometimes quite substantially scrubby, other times rather bare grasslands. There were occasional scrub lined dry creek gullies; we needed to slow down and take care not to hit these too fast. Eventually a low range appeared in the distance.
The turn off to the zinc mine was about 45kms from Gregory Downs. The unsealed road got worse after that – there must have been more maintenance done on the section that served the mine. John perceived the road as rougher than I did.
There was not much traffic at all.
After crossing several more substantial stream channels fairly close together, a couple with shallow water in, we came to the entrance to the Adels Grove campground. Made our way along a driveway to a donga building that was the office – with a large building site beside it. There were a number of really attractive trees about, so first impressions were favourable.
Just as we were driving in, there was a distinct roar, and a plane took off from a nearby airstrip – it was a Flying Doctor plane.
We asked for a site that would give us plenty of sunshine for the panels, as this was an unpowered campground. We were told that each site had its own tap, fireplace and BBQ plate. The cost was $16 a night – we booked in for a week, so got the final night free, which brought the cost down a bit. Received a brochure about the place, with a map of the campground, and also one about the Lawn Hill National Park.
The office, which was in a green painted demountable donga style of building, had a small shop area at one end, with some basic supplies, and a freezer that held icy poles.
To make some conversation while we were being processed, I asked how many staff were working here, and how easy it would be to get a job in a future tourist season – the lady replied that it would be quite easy. That was an interesting idea to tuck away.
I asked about the Flying Doctor plane we’d seen. A tour guide had been taken ill and evacuated. To myself, I wondered what would happen to his tour group now, but it seemed too inquisitive to ask. The reception lady did say that it takes the plane 45 minutes to get here from Mt Isa, and that they’d had two other emergency evacuations in the past few days – but that rate was not normal! We had visited the Cairns Flying Doctor Base, back in ’98, so were aware of this coverage of the outback for medical emergencies – but this was the closest we’d come to seeing it all in action.
Although the bookings book I could see on the office counter looked quite hectic, there did not actually seem to be that many campers in the place. I thought maybe people book here, over the phone – as we did, with no deposit needed – but go to the National Park first and find out that they can get in there after all. We had always intended to stay some time here, as Melbourne friends had told us it was nicer than the National Park campground.
We drove to the camp area, a little distance away from the office. The campground covered quite an extensive area. There was a really good separation of the natural bush and trees, between most sites – they were more like clearings in the scrub. It was very pleasant to find something different from the normal geometrically laid out campground. Our site boundaries were marked by white painted rocks.
We had a very good sized site. It was not too far to walk to the amenities block, which was rather basic, but clean. The hot water for showers came from a wood burning heater arrangement, outside. There was no laundry.
Set up. Had lunch. Lazed about on our site, as it was quite hot. No other campers came in to the sites near us.
We’d been told at the office that the construction site was a big new building that would be the managers’ residence, kitchen, office/shop and an open-air licensed restaurant. That seemed a bit ambitious, out here, was my initial thought. The construction area was roped off. As the campground was some distance from it, we were not likely to be disturbed by building noises, fortunately, as it was otherwise a lovely, peaceful place.
As it started to get a bit cooler, later in the afternoon, we walked down to Lawn Hill Creek, which was part of the place. We walked along its bank, on tracks through quite lush vegetation. The creek made a really large waterhole at one point. There was one section where there was obvious flood damage, with undermined banks, and that was fenced off from walkers.
We encountered B and D again, also walking around exploring. They were with a tour group, having left their van at Gregory Downs. They came in today, for one night only. They went walking at the National Park this afternoon and were going there again in the morning, to go canoeing on Lawn Hill Gorge. They said the tour groups stay in tents, on the other side of the Office area from where we were. Obviously, some meals were provided for them.
According to the information we’d been given, this place had been established in the 1920’s, on a former mining homestead lease, by a Frenchman – Albert de Lestang. He set up a type of botanical gardens here, experimenting to see what would grow in these conditions, and sending seeds to other Botanical Gardens around the world. The name Adels Grove came from the initials of his name.
In the early 1980’s a couple set up the bush campground here, but they had sold it a year or so ago. I supposed that new owners explained the new building activity?
Our tea was pasta with tuna and capers.
I tried to teach John the card game Mike had taught me at Duck Creek. Don’t think I properly remembered it, because it did not seem to flow as well.
No TV here, of course. We haven’t had it all that much, so far, on this trip, and I have to say that I do not miss it!
Although, on our way out here, we had seen no sign of the mine, apart from the road turn off, at night could see the glow of reflected light from it.
We are finally at Adels Grove/Lawn Hill! Two years ago, adverse weather caused us to abort plans to come here.