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