WEDNESDAY 10 JUNE EMERALD TO CHARTERS TOWERS 480kms
I felt much better this morning, for no logical reason except time passing.
Despite not having done a pre-pack up yesterday, we were away by 8.15am. We needed an early start today. One benefit of the early morning park noise.
Took the Gregory Highway, northwards. Further on, out beyond Clermont, this became the Gregory Development Road, meaning it changed from a normal road wide enough for cars to comfortably pass side by side, to a much narrower one, where meeting oncoming traffic usually meant at least one of the vehicles had to move partly onto the road shoulder. Rough edges on the sealed part could present problems when doing this. Any sort of oncoming vehicle that was wider than normal could present even bigger problems, as one looked frantically for somewhere to pull over that wouldn’t wreck, roll or bog our rig. A major benefit of having the CB radio in Truck was that, tuned to Channel 40, the chatter of escort vehicles gave us good advance warning of that sort of oncoming hassle. However, road trains didn’t have escorts and one just hoped to see them coming a long way off.
The scenery of the Peak Downs district, north of Emerald, is very distinctive and different. The peaks to the east of the highway, in the distance, were pointy and quite dramatic – it was a former volcanic zone. Here, in elderly times, the Earth surface plate that carries Australia, moved very slowly over a “hot spot” way deep below, melting some of the plate and allowing eruption of the molten lava from below. Because of the plate movement, a chain of eruptions resulted. Subsequent erosion has done the rest.
On a future visit to these parts, we thought, we should try to explore some of the Peak Range National Park, maybe from a base at Capella or Clermont.
That earlier volcanic activity has resulted in some rich soils in parts of the area around Emerald, and with irrigation water available, we were passing through some productive farmland.
We stopped for fuel at Clermont. Coal mining dominated here, and north of Clermont we passed the waste dumps. Running alongside the road, for kilometres, was the conveyor belt that carries coal from one huge open cut to the rail loading facilities at another huge mine a few kms further north. From here, the coal is railed to Gladstone port. The intrusion of all this industrial activity seemed extra ugly in the open countryside.
Once past that section, the surrounds were basically dry woodland mixed with dry grasslands. It suddenly seemed a much drier area than further south. It became rather monotonous.
We stopped at Belyando Crossing Roadhouse, to top up fuel, eat our lunch and buy some cold drinks to have with it. In 1998, I took a photo here of our rig, parked beside a three trailer road train, dwarfed by it. I used that photo on the cover of one of my annual family Xmas present calendars, that feature our travels. Now, the area in front of the roadhouse seemed more bare, and the big gum tree that had featured also in the photo, had gone. With more travellers using the Gregory Developmental Road, now that much more of it had been partly turned into a good, two lane road, perhaps the roadhouse had needed more parking space. After all, it was the only one for 370kms.
About 90kms north of Belyando, John was getting sleepy. I’d been reading to him for a while, from a Len Beadell book, as we were out of any radio range. Talking about what I was reading helped to keep him focussed.
We stopped at the open area on the north side of the Cape River low level bridge crossing. This was a popular free camp area for travellers. It was also a safe place for trucks to pull in for a break, so it could be noisy at night. John had a nanna nap in the van. I wandered around, chatting with others stopped there. Some of them had been in Belyando at the same time as us. Some of them were trying to work out where they would stay tonight – what was the best cheap place near Charters Towers.
John woke after half an hour, much refreshed. On previous trips, if he got sleepy and I still felt fresh, he would nap in the passenger’s seat whilst I drove on. But when I’d suggested we swap drivers, when he was getting tired, he’d refused, saying he wouldn’t let me drive, because of the state of the brakes! This was ridiculous! If they were that much of a problem, then – in my view – we absolutely had to deviate to Townsville – instead of continuing north from Charters Towers – and stay there until we got the issue finally sorted. It would be silly to continue towards Cooktown – our goal – and get into the winding, hilly sections of the Atherton Tablelands, if the brakes were too unreliable for me to drive with! John was still of two minds about it all.
It seemed that incompetent, unreliable mechanic, back home, had cost us more than wasted money! Now it was going to be more of our precious time – and more money!
I had phoned the Dalrymple Tourist Park in Charters Towers, yesterday, and booked us into an en-suite site for a couple of nights. I made what I later decided was a tactical error – navigating from a paper map – and my route took us right through the centre of town. Was not the easiest, with van on the back, and driver was not all that happy. We hadn’t been to this Park before and all I knew was that it was on the road north. When I booked, that was the way we were going. Anyway, we got there, through all the school time traffic!
With a 5% discount for our Seniors’ Card, it cost us $66.50 for the two nights. I was happy with the value, because it was a nice park, and the ensuite was very good. But the lady on Reception was new, flustered and not very efficient. She forgot to take my key deposit, and then didn’t give me the ensuite key, which I had to walk back for, when I realized it wasn’t in the door.
After setting up, John decided he wanted to walk to the bowls club, a few blocks away – he was considering the options, from here, and wanted to research the local bowls scene. However, there was no one at the club to give him any information. But the walk – probably a couple of kms – was pleasant enough and I really enjoyed the exercise after the long day of travel.
I made coleslaw and cut up the leftover cold pork, for tea.
After thinking about it over tea, John decided we would go to Townsville and get the brakes worked on – good!
TV until about 10pm, then bed. The forecast was for really cold nights, even in Townsville. I felt like we had brought winter with us.
Our nearest neighbour here was a really heavy smoker. I had to close all the van windows on that side, and zip up the flap in the poptop canvas. But the smell still permeated into the van. His annexe was really close, and he seemed to spend most of his time there, sitting and smoking – and coughing all the time! Oh well, mostly our caravan park experiences had been positive ones. This was just an unfortunate negative in an otherwise nice place.