This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2002 Travels October 22 – 27

TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER TO SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER   MIDGE POINT

The name should have told me to be wary! Midge Point! Yep – midges in the form of sandflies. Not just in the early morning and late afternoon, as we had previously encountered in tropical coastal locations, but all day.

Whilst the place itself was idyllic, the bugs totally spoiled it for us. It was probably really great in the cooler months, hence the glowing reports we’d heard, but we certainly landed in the full-on sandfly season.

There was a very pleasant beach fronting the park, but the ability to go walking on it was hampered by the ever-present midges.

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Beach by the Midge Point Caravan Park

From the beach we could see some of the many islands that make up the Whitsunday Group, in the distance.

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The Whitsunday Islands from Midge Point

Could also see some of the areas of coastal mangroves in places along the beach, and in the creek at the southern end of the beach. The extent of these in this area helped explain the midges.

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John reacted badly to the bites he received in the first couple of days, while we were still realizing the full prevalence of these critters through the daytime. We had to drive into Proserpine so that he could obtain some anti-histamines from a chemist. He was feeling too poorly with his itches and swellings, for us to do any looking around the town, so we retreated  back to the van. Refilled Truck whilst in Proserpine – 89cpl.

John spent most of the week holed up in the van, playing computer games, even after the anti-histamines began to do their work. I didn’t fare much better – copious applications of repellent didn’t seem to offer much protection.

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Idyllic surroundings can be deceptive

Not one of my better choices!


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2002 Travels October 21

MONDAY 21 OCTOBER   TOWNSVILLE TO MIDGE POINT   300kms

From other travellers, I had heard glowing reports of a caravan park at Midge Point, near Proserpine. It seemed a more peaceful alternative to staying at the nearby backpacker haven of Airlie Beach. This was an ideal time, I thought, to satisfy my curiosity about this place.

We drove south from Townsville, passing through Giru and wondering whether the mango shed work there would really eventuate. Initially the way south from Townsville was quite hilly, but closer to Giru the land flattened out, with just the Dividing Range in the western distance. Great fields of sugar cane appeared and then some mango plantations.

From Giru to Ayr was through flat, sugar cane growing country. Ayr was a good sized town. We would get to know it better if we came to stay here. Just south of Ayr, we crossed the impressive metal bridge over the Burdekin River. It is all metal girders and struts and the overall impression is rather temple like. This bridge is almost as long as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and testament to the sometimes huge floods of the river, with its large catchment area.

Just across the river was the large Inkerman sugar mill.

Beyond Home Hill township, the sugar cane country soon gave way to grazing lands – not as interesting to drive through. There were some pockets of crop land though, especially around Bowen, and closer to Prosperpine.

The highway skirted Prosperpine, then several kms south of the town, we turned onto a road that would take us past the Laguna Quays resort development to Midge Point.

We booked into the Travellers Rest Caravan Park – $97 for the week, after Top Tourist discount. Then we set up in what appeared as a very attractive, lush, green, shaded, tropical park.

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Midge Point Caravan Park

There were almost no other guests, a fact that I initially put down to the time of year, well outside the tourist season.

There were peacocks wandering about the grounds. A male made us a great display of his tail feathers.

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Peacock display – from the wrong side

We were not far from a beach, just down a little walk track, but decided to leave exploring until tomorrow, and just relax for the rest of the afternoon. However, sitting outside and enjoying the lush surrounds did not last for long, as the bities soon arrived. We retreated inside.

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2002 Travels October 7-20

MONDAY 7 OCTOBER – SUNDAY 20 OCTOBER     TOWNSVILLE

The two weeks here seemed to go by really quickly, without us doing a great deal that was interesting. It was hot, even at the coast, and that really sapped our energy and motivation.

Townsville, we already knew, from a brief time here in ’98, was a good sized city, with lots and lots of shops – in which we spent some time. After the previous months, I had a new appreciation of shops – and choices! I really enjoyed having a full range of goods available – especially foodstuffs. Even had my hair cut – months since it had been cut by a proper hairdresser, though John had managed a reasonable effort, a couple of times.

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From postcard of Townsville. Our caravan park was behind beach on right

We availed ourselves of the fishermens’ co-op store, across in South Townsville. Bought fish and prawns there, visiting a couple of times, and stocking up the freezebox before we left.

Diesel here was so much cheaper – our first refill cost 80cpl.

John played a number of games of bowls. With several bowls clubs in Townsville, he had no shortage of options to choose from. He won a pedestal fan, which we decided to take home.

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We walked along the Strand – the walking path through park lands, by the sea. Sometimes I walked the Strand on my own, navigating through some streets and parks from the caravan park, to reach the Strand. Sometimes I walked in the other direction, along Rowes Bay beach and Cape Pallarenda road. I had a new appreciation both of being by the sea, and being able to walk around freely and safely.

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The Strand

Along the Strand was a fabulous water playground, the likes of which I had not seen before. There were all sorts of imaginative ways of playing and getting wet, from gently little streams falling from a high mushroom shape, to a large and sudden dump of water from a big bucket. It might have been designed for children, but I was very tempted…….

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Water play area along the Strand

We took a day trip to Magnetic Island, which one could see across the bay from Townsville. Caught one of the regular ferries across there. John was not keen on hiring a little runabout so we could get around the Island, which I’d wanted to do. We only had a few hours over there, having gotten rather a late start in the morning.

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Magnetic Island. Mainland and Townsville in background

We caught a bus from the ferry landing around to Nelly Bay, and then walked about, a bit. That was about the extent of it – couldn’t say we really saw that much of the place, which has a number of permanent residents, who commute over to Townsville.

We visited a gallery that we walked past – had not set out originally to do so. They had some quite striking pottery. We finished up buying a large, bulbous vase/urn shaped piece by Peter Andersson, finished with a rough orange and earth colour surface. It would not have been my first choice, but John really liked it. We arranged for it to be sent home; we would contact them when we were there, to send it.

We attempted to contact the lass who was the cook at Adels, who we thought would be home from there, by now. But she wasn’t. We talked with her mother, though.

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Site at Rowe’s Bay

When we were driving around South Townsville one day, John saw an auction house/second hand dealer. He loves looking around such places, so in we went. We finished up buying a new porta-cot, at a very good price, to be a present for my daughter, whose first child is due in February. Some juggling about of contents allowed us to fit the porta-cot into Truck.

John’s older daughter was also to have her first child, in March. At least not staying on in Doomadgee would allow us to be closer to the daughters, at that time.

One late afternoon, the Army (there is a strong defense force presence in Townsville) had some sort of ceremonial event, held on a park area by the Strand. We saw, over preceding days, the setting up for this, blocking off some streets, erecting a little castle like structure, and the like. On the set afternoon, we parked as close as we could get and then walked some distance to watch. There was a fair sized crowd turned out for it, but we never did work out quite what it was all about! It seemed to be just a ceremony, with a lot of marching, but not all that interesting. However, I did like getting to meet the little white shetland pony that was the regimental mascot.

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Military event in park by the Strand

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One day, John was browsing through the Townsville paper, and saw an advertisement for workers wanted for the coming mango harvest season. NAP – North Australian Plantations – were advertising. John was off and away again! Enthusiastic – just as he had been about Doomadgee. He said that we had camped lots of times in the shade of mango trees, and it would be interesting to stick around, for once, for when the fruit was ripe, and for the harvest. He was really into money-making mode now!

I did not mind the idea, and our house sitter was very amenable to us staying away!

So, John phoned the given number. Although NAP had mango plantations around Townsville, their main farms and packing sheds were 50kms south, at Giru.

We were asked to drive down there, one day, for a brief interview, which we duly did. Were told that we would be contacted when the harvest began – probably early November. We would work in the packing shed at Giru. We would be paid by the hour, at what seemed a reasonable rate. The number of hours worked each day would vary with the ripening of the fruit.

It would be a “different” experience, anyway.

While we were down at Giru, checked out where we could bring the van, to stay. The initial option – a sort-of caravan place just out of Giru, seemed rather run down and not at all welcoming.

We drove further south – another 37kms – to Ayr, where we inspected a caravan park and decided that would suit us fine. We would just have to manage the commute to Giru.

Thus we were left with an uncertain amount of time to fill in, before starting work again. The idea of staying on in Townsville was not really attractive. It seemed better to use the time to do some tourist type exploring in other places – maybe even as far away as a day’s drive from Ayr. We focussed on the area to the south, because if the mango work did not happen, then we would still be on our way home.

We stayed a day longer than the two weeks in Townsville, to give John an extra game of bowls. On his way, he filled Truck – 82cpl.


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2002 Travels October 6

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER   MOUNT SURPRISE TO TOWNSVILLE   550kms

Today was a really long and hot day of driving. We continued east to the Kennedy Development Road, then south east to Charters Towers, then east again to Townsville. Back in ’98, we’d spent time at Charters Towers, so didn’t feel the need to stop there again.

Refuelled at the Lynd Junction Roadhouse – 97cpl.

The Kennedy Development Road was still a single strip of bitumen, but being Sunday we did not meet much oncoming traffic on it.

Booked into the Rowes Bay Caravan Park, in Townsville – chosen because it was across a road from the beach. It was $20 a night, but with the 7th night free.

The park was a mix of tourist and permanent sites, which were all fairly small. There was quite a backpacker presence there, but it was adequate for our needs.

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2002 Travels October 4-5

FRIDAY 4 & SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER     MOUNT SURPRISE

When we first stayed here, in 1998, it was also in early to mid October, and then we were here for two weeks. Back then, Jo and Joe had not had the park open for long, and had done a huge amount of work already, to develop it from scratch. We were impressed then, and were more so this time, They were still super busy and ultra hospitable.

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The plantings between the sites had really grown up

It was interesting to see how the park had come on. The plantings between the sites – all drive through – had really grown in the four year interval, and were providing both shade and lush screening between the sites. There were more, and better, communal facilities.

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Site at Bedrock Village

After my Adels Grove experience, I was pleased to see this place providing some special meal nights for guests. On the Friday night, there were some passengers from the Savannahlander train staying, and we availed ourselves of the BBQ and salad tea that was put on for these and for those from the campground who wanted to join in.

The increased popularity of this park meant that there were now extra staff working there. I noted that as potential future work?

The little township had developed a bit more, with a special gem and gem field tour shop operating, to the nearby O’Briens Creek topaz fields. But the general store and hotel were still the same.

There was an emu roaming the caravan park, with his chicks, while we were there – they provided us with some entertainment.

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Daddy emu and his brood

Apart from having a bit of a roam around the township, on foot, we did very little here, preferring just to swim in the lovely pool, and relax in general. I did quite a bit of my embroidery, on the place mats I was making for step daughter.

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2002 Travels October 3

THURSDAY 3 OCTOBER   KARUMBA TO MT SURPRISE   490kms

School holidays were over, near enough. We had run out of things of interest in Karumba. It really is geared to people who boat and fish. The heat was becoming enervating. So it was time for us to move on, further east.

Between Normanton and Croydon, on the Gulf Development Road, we got a flat front tyre on Truck. The current tyres were getting quite old and worn, and had taken a hammering on the rough roads of the past few months. There was plenty of flat road side to pull over on to, to change the wheel – but it was all quite densely covered in cow pats! One had to be careful where stepping. And it smelled very strongly of cow.

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One wrong step…….

This road, as far as Georgetown, was still a route we had not travelled before, as all had been since we left Mt Isa, back in June. Actually, that had been the case for much of this year’s trip, to date.

In 1998, we had spent some time at Mt Surprise, and explored the surrounding area quite a bit then, coming as far west as Georgetown, on our way to Forsayth and Cobbold Gorge.

Wheel changed, we continued on, refuelling at Croydon, where diesel was 99.1cpl. We were initially surprised that it was dearer than at Karumba Point, but then realized that it probably came in by ship through that port, or Normanton.

Much of the road, though sealed, was a single width only. Fortunately, there was not much oncoming traffic, so we rarely had to move off the bitumen onto the gravel sides.

We did not stop to do touristy things in Croydon – it was a hot day and we’d decided to cover distance. Another time.

We crossed the wide and dry Gilbert River, between  Croydon and Georgetown, and then the equally dry Etheridge at Georgetown.

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These single-vehicle-width bridges are quite common in the outback

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The Gilbert River in the late Dry season

Booked into the Bedrock Village Caravan Park at Mt Surprise – $16 a night. Being after the main tourist season, there were not many other travellers in the park.

It was getting well on in the afternoon by the time we reached Mt Surprise, so all we did was set up our camp and relax. After tea, it was an early night to bed.

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2002 Travels September 20 – October 2

FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER TO WEDNESDAY 2 OCTOBER     KARUMBA

It was so good to spend some time in a settlement where we could move about freely again, and where we could buy some proper food.

Although the shops at Karumba and Normanton were not extensive, we were able to stock up on some of the basics that had been depleted during our Doom time. Most importantly, we were able to buy meat and seafood.

The main establishment at Karumba Point was the Sunset Tavern and the fish and chip shop, which we patronized – very good tucker! Long time since we’d had take away….

As the name suggests, we were able to spend some happy hour times having a beer outdoors at the Tavern, watching the brilliant sunsets over the Gulf.

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There was a seafood outlet in Karumba proper – a sort of fishermen’s co-op. We were able to buy a nice supply of frozen Gulf prawns. John thus had garlic prawns for his 62nd birthday, while we were here.

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A few good meals there!

We did some touring around and sightseeing from this Karumba base.

We drove back into Normanton a couple of times, where we drove around looking at the various landmarks. The Purple Pub was notable. So was the life-sized statue of a huge crocodile – Krys (named for the woman who shot and killed it in the 1950’s) was over 8.5 metres long.

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Shire Offices and Kris the crocodile

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We admired the historic Burns Philp store in Normanton. This trading store and warehouse was built by the company in the 1880’s, by the port area in the river. In those days, goods for these parts came by sea. Burketown had originally, briefly, been the port for the Gulf country, until a major typhoid fever outbreak in the 1860’s, caused its abandonment, and replacement as Gulf port by Normanton.

We found it rather surprising that Normanton’s several substantial buildings had survived the ravages of cyclones.

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Visited the Normanton Station – again, quite substantial. It was built in the 1880’s, to be a transport link between the port at Normanton and the major gold rush centre of Croydon, to the east. There was some intention that a rail line would also go south to Cloncurry, and thus connect there to the railway system to the east coast, but that link never eventuated.

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Normanton Railway Station

As the gold fields around Croydon declined, so too did the use of the railway. Now it is a tourist attraction, home of the historic Gulflander train that runs to Croydon and back, once a week.

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The Gulflander train at Normanton Railway Station

We thought about doing the trip on the train, but decided against it, as the train goes to Croydon one day, and returns the next. Travellers stay overnight in Croydon, or catch a bus back to Normanton. That part did not really appeal. We figured we would be driving basically the same route when we left here, anyway.

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The Gulflander

By the road between Normanton and Karumba, we often saw big groups of brolgas – more than we’d ever previously seen gathered together in one place.

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Brolgas by the Karumba road

One day, we drove some way – about 60kms – out along the Burke Development Road, to the NE, just to see what it was like. It was unsealed, of course, and rather monotonous, through the flat coastal plains. This “back route” from Karumba through to the Atherton Tablelands, along the Mitchell River, was one we’d had some thoughts of driving, sometime, although we’d had conflicting reports about the wisdom of trying to tow the van through the Mitchell River crossing.

We explored Karumba, of course. Drove and saw the operation of the Century Mine here. The ores from the mine near Adels Grove, were piped from there to Karumba, as a slurry. Here they were dried out, then loaded onto a type of barge, to be transported out to ships waiting out in deeper water – about 45kms out! It was just an industrial style building, beside the Norman River – there was really not much to see.

The weather was clearly heating up. I availed myself of the park’s swimming pool a few times.

We did some beach walking, for exercise, in the mornings, or later in the afternoons. The beach was a narrow sandy one, that stretched for quite a distance to the NW. It was a delight to be able to freely walk places, without fear of “locals” and their dogs!

We spent a number of evenings watching the sunset over the Gulf, from various coastal vantage points. Karumba had to have some of the best sunset vistas we had ever seen, and we did not get sick of watching the sun sink into the waters of the Gulf.

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We took a tour of the barramundi farm, in Karumba. As the name suggested, it was a place that was experimenting with breeding and growing barramundi – a fish that was still mostly caught in the wild rather than farmed. Clearly, if methods of successfully farming barramundi could be established, it would be a significant industry, as they are such a prized eating fish.

A feature at the farm was Emily, the blind barramundi matriarch, who swam around in her tank, with her five much smaller male companions.

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Emily the blind barramundi

Also at the farm, one could hold food aloft and a brown kite would fly in and take it from the hand.

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John had a brief flirtation with the idea of buying the Post Office, which was for sale, along with its associated air freight business. He really liked the laid-back atmosphere of Karumba. I tended to focus more on things like cyclone events, the wet season and isolation, and distance from family! Being the practical – realistic? – one, does become tedious at times, though. Guess someone has to do it?

Karumba was a pleasant place to visit – once – but not somewhere I would want to live.

We did refuel at Karumba Point, while there. Diesel was 96.9cpl. We hadn’t seen it under a dollar for ages!

We heard that fisheries inspectors were pulling over rigs on the road out of Karumba and checking fridges and freezers to make sure that travellers were not taking away illegal quantities of fish. Good to know they were cracking down on this.

We spaced out the things we did find to do whilst in Karumba, interspersed with hot days of doing very little. Apart from enjoying the comparative civilization, we were waiting out the school holidays, before moving on to the busier east coast areas.

Over our time at Sunset Point, the place definitely began to empty out – particularly of the people from down south who had come for the “winter” and fishing. Apparently the onset of the hot weather was the signal for them to head out.

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Karumba sunset – and pelicans