This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels April 27

THURSDAY 27 APRIL   ADELS GROVE TO SOUDAN BORE REST AREA   340kms

After breakfast, we hitched up, then took Truck to the bowsers to refuel. We’d done 368 kms since the last fuel (in Mt Isa), so John only bought 40 litres, at $1.50 cpl.

O had been expected, at 8.30am, flying in from Pungalina in the Jabiru, on the way to Isa, but had not appeared by the time we left. Pity – I had been looking forward to a quick catch up with him.

As we left, wondered if this was goodbye to Adels forever? Or if we would be back sometime?

Headed south, on the Riversleigh road. This was a lot drier than when we came up, less than two weeks ago. The areas broken by the trucks had not been fixed yet, but the side tracks around them were well settled and would present no problems for travellers.

The sky was grey today and it looked like it might rain. It was actually strangely cool, which was a pleasant change.

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Near Riversleigh

We stopped at the Site D at Riversleigh, for a nostalgic look around. John had expected to be doing the Adels tours down to here! We went in through the entrance structure, with its informative displays, then walked around the track through the site.

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Inside the Riversleigh entrance shelter. Representations of creatures re-created from fossil bones found at the site.

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Walking track round Site D at Riversleigh

The ford through the Gregory River was about half the height of twelve days ago!

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One section of the Gregory River ford – much lower than the last time we came through

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Still a fair current across the ford!

Took the Thorntonia road again, to the Barkly Highway, then turned west.

We picked up some radio reception. Heard that a trough was coming across these parts – the remains of Cyclone Monica that went through Arnhem Land three days ago. That explained the change in the usual weather.

Stopped at Camooweal to refuel. 225kms. $1.56cpl. The guy had to come out of the pub to serve us and did not seem at all happy to have a customer.

Rain set in, west of Camooweal, as we crossed the border into the NT.

There was plenty of surface water lying around and little streams were flowing, in places as shallow floodways across the road.  The country was very green and pretty.

On a tableland section, with no trees at all, there was a repeater station with a high fence around it – and a bird of prey perched on every post. It looked quite surreal.

We noted a very good looking overnight free camp area at Avon Downs Police Station – with toilets and a phone.

Our intention had been to reach at least as far as Barkly Homestead Roadhouse. But the rain grew steadily heavier, and the head wind stronger, until we were facing  into almost horizontal, driving rain. John was driving very cautiously and quite slowly, but the conditions continued to deteriorate to the point where driving was unwise.

Then, about 5pm, we found a rest area, that we later found was Soudan, and pulled into that.

The conditions by now were such that it was almost dark at this time.

There was another caravan and a group of camper trailers pulled up there. We found a spot where a small tree night act as a bit of a wind break. It was actually quite hard to see far and we did not want to risk driving around and maybe getting bogged. Neither if us wanted to get really wet and cold, walking around and looking!

There was a water tank and windmill there, but no facilities for travellers.

We did not unhitch or put up the poptop on the van. The wind was moaning around and getting stronger all the time. The rain was heavy on the van roof and getting heavier.

We got drenched, just getting from Truck to van. It actually felt very cold.

The bush smelled wonderful wet – really aromatic.

We wondered how far north this rain band was reaching, and whether it would delay the opening of the Gulf Track even longer. Also wondered whether Pungalina was affected – that might have accounted for the no-show by O.

I prepared a  scratch meal, having to work  partly bent over due to the low roof. Just tinned tomato soup, with Salada biscuits.

It rained heavily and the wind gusted, shaking the van, all night. It was certainly the worst night we had ever spent in the van. Had no way of knowing just how bad it was going to become and could only hope that the weight of the rig would keep us on the ground!

John was really worried that the unsealed surface of this parking area would be bog by tomorrow and that we would not be able to drive out.

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2006 Travels April 16

SUNDAY 16 APRIL   MT ISA TO ADELS GROVE   385kms

We left the caravan park at 9.30am.

We went via the town  library so I could drop  off the books I’d read. Would send the rest back via someone going to Isa, or the mail bag.

The day was the nicest we’d had here, to date. There was even some blue sky.

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On the Thorntonia Road

Took the Barkly Highway west, for 170kms, then the sealed Thorntonia road. After about 60kms, this turned to gravel.

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Gravel road beyond Thorntonia

The drive was fine until we reached the rivers. The Thornton River was almost dry, and there were no issues crossing that. The O’Shaughnessy was straight forward, crossing over the cement causeway. The Gregory, with its double crossing, was flowing quite fast over its causeways. We would not have wanted it any higher – or faster! Just stuck to the middle of the cement causeway and took it steadily through.

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The O’Shaughnessy and Gregory River fords (Google Earth)

Between the rivers and the park turn off, there were several extensive lengths of black soil bog. These were now just dry enough for wheel ruts to stay formed through them. There were sections where the heavy trucks from the Century Mine had completely broken down the structure of the road, down to the large underlying boulders that were below. Sidetracks had been formed around these.

So, it was quite slow going through that part.

There were going to need to be some extensive road works, once it was dry again.

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It was great to see the Adels crew again. The new baby was a small one. Friends V and F had been here for a couple of weeks and were pleased to see us again. There were two other couples there, as well – one lot arrived about the same time as V and F.

The other couple had been there since early January. The electrician husband was going to do the electricals on the new house that was being built, for M and R, closer to the road. With two young children, the one bed-sit room they’d had, since 2002, that was part of the main building, was definitely not adequate for them!

We set up camp down in the Grove – the same place as we’d occupied last year, next to V and F. We hooked up to water, sharing the one tap with V and F, and ran our power lead down from the donga area up top.

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Back in the grove again

It was obvious that the ground had been very muddy – it was just dry, now. There were many ants around. John surreptitiously sprayed our site area with the ant poison he carries with us.

After setting up, we had a wander about, looking at the changes since last year. The workshop had been relocated over to the area of the new house, by the front entrance, where the fuel outlets were now, too. It would seem that the shop/reception would now no longer handle the fuel payments – too far away.

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Fuel bowsers relocated away from here. The bus that John would drive on tours.

There was a van under a roof there, too, and a laundry was in the making. The builders were due to arrive soon, to commence work on the house. The generators were to be moved over to that area soon, too.

There were a few guests who had managed to make it in, both campers and in the accommodation.

The boss said she would start us working, and on wages, on next Wednesday. She would want our friend M to work later on, but was not sure yet when she would want her to start. M was, in the meantime, doing some visiting and sightseeing over on the coast, and was waiting to hear from us before heading this way.

In the interim, we were to do a few tasks about the place, help with the dishes, to “pay” for our lunch and dinner. Breakfast we would have from our own supplies in the van.

It was not an ideal situation, given our efforts, in good faith, to get here in time for Easter, but so be it.

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2005 Travels September 16

FRIDAY 16 SEPTEMBER   ADELS GROVE TO MT ISA   295kms

We didn’t hurry to get going in the morning.

Hitched up, said our goodbyes – yet again! Told the boss we would be open to working at least part of the tourist season here, next year, if they wanted us. She said they do! We did not make a firm commitment yet, but I quite liked the idea, of course. John discussed with them the possibility of doing the Riversleigh tours. He would need to get his driving licence upgraded to Light Rigid, to drive the Coaster, though. Food for thought…..

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South of Adels Gtove

We took the route south, past Riversleigh. Had no problems fording the Gregory – first time we had done it with the van, as we usually came and went via Burke and Wills. The fords were very shallow, at this time of year. But still, I recited to John the mantra that I’d stated hundreds of times, when working on Reception at Adels: “Keep to the middle or even slightly the downstream side of the fords. Do not drive close to the upstream edge, even though that is what you are tempted to do, because that it where it is most slippery!”

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Gregory River ford, south of Riversleigh

Turned south, down past Thorntonia, to the highway, and then east into Mt Isa.

It was a hot day of driving.

Went into the Argylla Caravan Park in Mt Isa. $19.80 a night, after discount.

The park was pretty empty. We would stay here for two nights, in order to get some supplies for the run home.

After setting up, we ventured to the shops. There were far too many people around and it was too busy for comfort.

At Woolworths, I was hoping to see the lady who was the Country Orders person, to thank her in person for the great work she did with my Pungalina orders, but she was away. Pity.

We bought fish and chips for tea. It had been so long! But the anticipation was far better than the reality.

Phoned the family to let them know we were out of the wilds.

The night seemed really noisy, with town sounds. It was hard to sleep. We were no longer used to this.

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2003 Travels April 26

SATURDAY 26 APRIL   CLONCURRY TO ADELS GROVE   430kms

Left Cloncurry at 7.30am. Refuelled on the way out of town – 99cpl.

There was not much traffic on the narrow Burke Development Road north to Burke and Wills Roadhouse, with its one vehicle wide strip of asphalt. So we had no issues about having to pull over for oncoming traffic.

Took a short break at the Roadhouse – refuelled, just so we could maximize how much fuel we had, before the next fill up at much higher prices. Had morning coffee from our thermos.

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Burke and Wills Roadhouse

I bought John a polo shirt with the Roadhouse logo on. Unfortunately, they did not have one in my size.

From here, we travelled north west on the Wills Development Road.

There was still quite a lot of surface water in the hollows beside the road, though this was clearly drying fast. There were large groups of brolgas on some of the larger wet areas. We were just a couple of weeks late to see the best of the end of the Wet. Maybe one time we’d come up this way early enough in the year to see it straight after, or during, after good rains.

Stopped to eat our sandwich lunch by the Gregory River, where we’d camped last year. There were only a few camper rigs there, but I suspected it might fill up more,  later in the afternoon. But clearly, the late seasonal rains and associated closed roads, had resulted in fewer travellers in these parts, just yet.

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Lunch stop beside the Gregory River

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The Gregory River at Gregory Downs

The unsealed road was alright as far as the turnoff to the Century Mine, and not too bad after that – at least by our standards. There were a few dips, not yet graded after the rains, that were rather gullied out, and we needed to take care in those. The last few kms had been freshly graded.

The scenery over this last stretch was so familiar. We could see the workings of the Century Mine – though a traveller who did not know where to look would probably not notice.

It really felt like coming home!

V was manning the Reception desk when we arrived. She was so excited to see us. M, too – and we met her baby for the first time. He looked so like his dad.

The boss wanted us to set the van up in the old staff compound yard, rather than down in the Grove. He thought there were already too many staff rigs hooked up to the donga power point at the top of the hill, that serviced the staff area in the Grove, and to the water point down there. There were V and F’s van, the cook’s Coaster bus motor home,  and the lead from the donga that the cook’s daughter was in.

We would have preferred to have been down with the others, where there were lots of birds, a nicer environment, and the group camaraderie – it was a blow. But he was the boss. It was shady enough at the top, and high up enough to occasionally receive some – faint – radio.

It was not easy, manoeuvring the van into the space where he wanted us, amongst the old dongas. Our outlook was not what I had been looking forward to – sheds, dongas, old fencing, and a single long drop toilet – convenient for us, if not exactly attractive looking!

It took us a while to set up our camp.

We wandered up to the dining deck area about 5.15, expecting to see the final flurry of tea preparation, but the meal was much later than we’d expected – at 7pm, instead of the 5.30 of last year. Apparently the cook preferred to cook later, in this heat. She and daughter had about a three hour break in the afternoon, to compensate for tea being later.

The meal was chicken drumsticks in a seasoned marinade, baked in the oven, boiled whole potatoes, a mushroom balsamic salad and a zucchini based salad. For dessert, there were baked apples, with a caramel sauce, and custard. The menu is already a big improvement on what B and I had to cook, last year! I guessed that was the influence of having a “proper” cook. It would be interesting to see if it lasted when the diner numbers increased – just now, it was cooking mostly just for the staff – about a dozen or so.

The diners do not wash up their own dishes any more, as they were expected to, last year, because the  wash up sinks were now inside the new kitchen. It was indicated to us that all staff are expected to hop in and help with this, though, so that would be a bit of an add-on to the normal working hours. But staff used to help us wash the pots, pans and serving stuff, last year, so perhaps not a great change.

There was still no hot water in the kitchen, though! The service was there, but there was some problem in getting it operational. Still needed  buckets of hot water carted from the nearest donkey heater.

There was much in the new kitchen set up that I recognized from our old kitchen of last year, now rather a forlorn shell down from the dining deck, waiting for some sort of new purpose. The stoves were the old ones, moved up top. The old wire frame we used as a shelf had been turned into an overhead store and hanging implement set up, suspended above the central bench. There was the old steel topped bench and table. Plus the old plates, saucepans, plastic ware – rather a motley collection.

There was now a lovely spacious “dry dock” – unloading area for goods from the delivery trucks – adjacent to the kitchen, and away from where tourists could venture.

But there were the same old problems with the power supply, fridges, freezers and the like.

Obviously, upgrading a place like this was when purchased, could not happen all at once, and transitional arrangements just had to be borne.

I was certainly impressed with the way the new building functioned. When we left, last year, the building was far from finished, though our last meal here was the first served on the new dining deck – from our “old” kitchen. Part of me even envied L, working in the new kitchen!

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Dining deck, servery to kitchen, walkway to front of building and reception/shop

Having a set of toilets in the new building – flushing – was a major improvement on last year, where we either used the somewhat primitive long drop version, over beyond the tent shower structure, or walked a fair distance to the campground amenities.

Cook and daughter seemed a pretty efficient team. The alcohol supplies we brought from Cloncurry were actually for them. I didn’t think they had realized how remote this place was, before they came, and how far away any shops were. They were friends of friends of one of the staff couples and had applied to come here for a different experience. It would certainly be that! They had not been here long.

Apart from the boss couple, cook and daughter, and ourselves, there were two other couples working here – V and F from last year, and an Irish couple (B and M) who were related to one of the Mt Isa owners. As the season built up, there would be others, no doubt.

It was still hot and humid in these parts – 30 to 35 degrees in the daytime, with nights still a little too warm.

There were lots of cane toads about.

It was so good to be back!

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2002 Travels June 16

SUNDAY 16 JUNE     ADELS GROVE

In the morning of another hot day, we decided to go explore the Riversleigh Fossil Site D, some 60kms south of here – road unsealed, of course.

The turn off was not far from Adels Grove, then we proceeded south. The road was heavily corrugated in parts; in other places there were some quite large rocks exposed in the road. It was certainly not fast driving! I thought it must have been quite a while since there had been a grader over that road.

Most of the way was through the grass land scrub land that was like we’d travelled through from Gregory Downs. Savannah woodland country, to use one of my geographical terms. Dry, of course, at this time of the year.

The Riversleigh site is part of the National Park (aboriginal name Boodjamulla NP) and is also a World Heritage Site, because of the importance of the fossils found here. Many millions of years ago, Like around 25 million years, the area was a rainforest area, with plenty of waterways and shallow lakes.

As it is now, the water then was high in calcium carbonate, When the local critters died and fell in the water or mud, their skeletons were preserved – only to be exposed by erosion in more modern times. Riversleigh has provided much information about the evolution of mammals and the exploration of its riches is ongoing.

Fossil presence was noted in the area in the 1960’s, but systematic investigation really only began in the 1970’s.

Site D was one of the first fossil areas found at Riversleigh. Since then, lots of other parts of the area have yielded remains, but Site D is the only section that tourists can access. Adels Grove does offer a tour to the area, but we prefer to be independent, when we can. Also, to save our money!

We drove a short distance past Site D, to have a look at where the track south crosses the Gregory River. The river looked very attractive, and the ford shallow, so we decided to return there to have our lunch, after going round the fossil site.

The site did not look particularly compelling from the road – bit of a low outcrop and a jumble of rocks. From the carpark, followed the track to what turned out to be an entrance and information shelter. It was man made. but done to look like just another rock outcrop – clever. Certainly it was unobtrusive.

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Inside the little “rock” outcrop is the information shelter and site entrance

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A fossil illustration inside the information shelter

Followed the set walking path around in a big loop. In some places we probably would not have recognized fossils in the grey looking rock, if there hadn’t been information boards! The track climbed gradually and gave some interesting outlooks over the area. The limestone rock around here has weathered into shapes that resemble distorted grey mushrooms, or maybe Darliks?

 

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The remains of a big bird were fascinating. Apart from some of its bones, there was a fall of small stones that were from its gizzard, where they acted as food grinders. Pictures of “Big Bird” on the information board show it a bit like a short-legged emu.

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The small stones that were in the bird’s gizzard

We now wished we had paid a proper visit to the Riversleigh interpretation centre at the Information Centre in Mt Isa. We hadn’t realized this place was here, nor how significant it is, so there were big gaps in our knowledge, and lots of questions we had.

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Site D

Because of the time period over which fauna were living and dying in the Tertiary period, around here, combined with the preservation factor of the calcium, scientists are seeing the way creatures evolved, as well as finding ones they had not suspected existed. This work has been going on in earnest since the 1980’s, with annual fossil gathering expeditions.

While we were wandering around, slowly exploring and taking photos, and out of sight of the road and entrance area, a man in a fawn coloured uniform appeared in the distance, and climbed to the top of an outcrop, where he seemed to talk into a hand held radio. We eventually twigged that he was the tour guide from Adels Grove. When we got back closer to the carpark, there was a Coaster mini bus there, and a young woman in a similar uniform. Their tourists were walking on the track in the distance.

We drove to the Gregory crossing, and carefully drove over the first ford section – turned out there were a couple more channels and fords. Took photos, explored, ate lunch. Drove a short distance beyond the river before going back the way we’d come.

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Gregory River first ford

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Another part of the Gregory River ford

The river area was very pretty We spotted an Azure Kingfisher in a big paperbark tree – very handsome with its bright ginger tummy.

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Azure kingfisher

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The Gregory River at Riversleigh

On the way back to Adels Grove, stopped to take a photo of the very graphic sign that warns drivers to be on the lookout for cattle. There are few fences in these parts, so cattle on roads are common. Big beasts up this way, too.

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Does the sign suggest that cattle attack cars?

We were hot when we got back to Adels Grove, so went down to the shallower swimming area (as opposed to the one in the main part of the creek, that has a diving pontoon moored). John ventured in too, and really enjoyed lazing about in the cooler water.

Bought icy poles at the shop and walked back to the van.

Later, as we were sitting outside the van just relaxing, one of the staff ladies – V – came by. She’d come down to ask if we would be interested in working here for a couple of weeks. A couple who had been expected here to work had been delayed, or backed out. She explained they were coming up to a really busy period – the couple of weeks when the paleontologists from the Uni of NSW and the Australian Museum, come to stay here and do their annual “dig” at Riversleigh. Plus, school holidays coming too. She said to think about it and go up and see them in the morning, if we were interested. She seemed really nice.

We had a discussion about the idea and decided we would do it. Something “different” – and the area is just so beautiful. We had the time, before we were booked into Karumba. V hadn’t said what we’d actually be doing – we assumed the same as the staff we had seen working around here: men who clean the campground every day; women who look after the shop/office. V did warn that the pay wasn’t huge.

Went to bed really excited about this prospect of a change! If we find we don’t like it, well – is only 2 weeks.


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2002 Travels June 11

TUESDAY 11 JUNE     GREGORY DOWNS

The camp area emptied out somewhat, fairly early in the morning.

We walked around and had a look at the vacated places, but then decided to stay where we were, rather than go to all the hassle of packing up the camp and relocating, for only one or two nights more.

Went for a drive out along the Camooweal road, to try to find the canoe trip access points to the river, shown on the General Store brochure. Wanted to see what the river was like at these points, and also if there were camp spots there – we would be coming back this way after our visit to the Lawn Hill area, and might find somewhere great to prop for a little while.

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Gregory River

We found an access point about 18kms out, marked by two drums beside the road. It was a bit tricky to get into – the track was eroded, then sandy, but it led to a beautiful, huge, area for camping – on firm ground, not river stones. The river was beautiful here,too, some rapids, with pools above and below. There were a number of drums for rubbish about, so obviously it was regularly used. It would be a great spot for tents. John said he would not be keen on trying to get the van in there.

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Gregory River, about 20kms upstream from camp area

Another track, this one about 12kms out, was marked by one roadside drum. It led to a large area of river stones that were deep and not compacted, like the ones where we are camped are. There was a Coromal van there, on about the only patch of ground that was viable to tow on. The river was narrower there – a pool, with no rapids.

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Reflections in a deeper pool

On the way back, we bought fuel at the hotel – $1.69cpl! Also bought a pack of steak at the Store – John’s choice.

Had a late lunch back at the van. By now it was hot.

Went for a swim in the afternoon, as we had seen others doing. I walked upstream along the bank to a place where there was a divided channel and a narrow “race” around a bend. I went in there, where there was a very strong current, like a spa. I got bumped a bit by stones in the race, and then the current wanted to seep me under a clump of pandanus. I caught a branch of this to keep me out in the open, and got some splinters!

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Rapids in the river

I advised John not to do the race section, but to enter the river below it, into calmer water. The current carried us down to our camp, fairly quickly. It was hard to stop there and just sit in the water, due to the current. The river looked deceptively lazy but the current was definite.

We went back and did the float down again, from the calmer section. Then sat in the water for a while. It was clean, clear and cool, and a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

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A motor home came in. The couple looked about. John encouraged them to park near us – they seemed desirable neighbours and would create a buffer from those maybe less so.

As the afternoon wore on, it became cool quite quickly, and suddenly too cold to be lazing around in wet bathers.

John lit a little campfire and cooked potatoes in foil, then the steak and some zucchini halves on his mesh grill. He also cooked some eggs and made himself a steak sandwich, with bread. I found the scotch fillet, though tender, to be very bland – not as tasty as southern steak. Different cattle breeds, obviously. The meat was not good value, having cost us $8.

This morning, mother kite pushed Baby Huey out of the nest. Tough love! He hopped/flew to a nearby branch, then took off and flew! It must have felt pretty good. He was not good at landing, though, tending to miss the branch he was aiming for and crash down to a lower one. The parent birds hovered about him – literally! He had several more flying sessions during the day. We were so lucky to have been here at just the right time to see this.

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So now what do I do?

Sat by the remnants of our fire for a short while, after tea, but then it was an early night.


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2002 Travels June 10

MONDAY 10 JUNE   LAKE JULIUS TO GREGORY DOWNS   320kms

Neither of us had been looking forward to extracting the van from our site, this morning, but we managed, with quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing. I made very sure that the chocks stayed behind the wheels until we were securely away from the drop! We needed low range gears again, to take the rig back down the hill from the camp.

Then we had to back track to the Kajabbi road. This continued to be fairly rough until we were almost at Kajabbi, then we were mostly out of the hill country and more onto plains.

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Quartz blow by the Kajabbi road

It was still really interesting country to pass through, with the track running roughly parallel with the Leichardt River. We crossed a number of dry watercourses. This would not be a road to take after rains! Then we crossed the Leichardt itself – just a graded sort of causeway through the channel.

Kajabbi was once an important place, the railhead for cattle to be transported after being droved from the Gulf Country. There were also copper mines in the area. We had seen some signs of recent mining activity in the area we drove through – a bit of a revival?

The township was now only a few old houses and the Kalkadoon Hotel – named for the rather ferocious aboriginal peoples of the area, who strongly resisted white encroachment, and were quite feared.

We stopped at the hotel, because of its iconic nature. After all, who knows anyone who can say they had a drink at the Kalkadoon Hotel? John had a beer and I had a coke and we “talked to the locals”. They were friendly and informative, about mining, floods and the like. The township is right by the river.

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Kalkadoon Hotel at Kajabbi

From Kajabbi, on the advice of the locals, we took the River Road, through Coolulluh Station, to the Burke Development Road. It was quite reasonable going, and adequately signposted – just!

The Development Road, like most of them, was a single strip of tar, but with some widened sections in shallow dips and at creek beds.

Not long after we got on the Development Road, we began to hear the regular talk on the CB radio of an oversize load and its escort. Soon worked out that this was behind us, so we were concerned to stay ahead of same, rather than having to try to find a place to pull over. Much of the road was banked up quite high above the surrounding country, thus with nowhere to pull off – or even much shoulder.

There was quite a lot of traffic on that section of road too – long weekend traffic? We got really sick of having to pull partly off the tar strip, for oncoming traffic, some of which did not slow down when doing the same, thus spraying us with stones.

We reached the Burke and Wills Roadhouse and pulled in there to fuel up. $1.05cpl.

About three minutes after we reached the Roadhouse, a truck pulled in, carrying a large fishing boat. That was the source of our radio traffic. Bound for Karumba, we guessed.

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The load dwarfed the pilot vehicle!

After refuelling at the Roadhouse, we parked to eat our lunch there. Encountered a man from a local (Melbourne) bowling club, who John had bowled with in Mt Isa, last week, and who had been staying near us in the caravan park. They (B and D) were heading for Gregory Downs too.

Now we turned west – onto the Wills Development Road – the usual single strip of tar.

We stopped by the bridge over the Leichardt River – significantly downstream now of where we’d encountered the river before. The river there was a rich brown colour – lots of the local red earth in there. The river was much lower than the level of the road bridge – from the height of the latter, we figured the river can do some pretty impressive flooding. This area can have some major rain events, from intense low pressure systems that are the aftermath of cyclones that cross the north Qld or Gulf coasts – in the northern, summer, wet season.

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Leichardt River from bridge on the Wills Development Road

Gregory Downs consisted of a hotel and a store, at a road junction, by the Gregory River.

We stopped at the store – Billy Hanger’s general Store – to seek information. There, we collected a very informative “brochure” and were directed to drive across the bridge to the camp area.

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Much of the brochure was devoted to information about canoeing on the Gregory River, with a canoe hired from him. Looked interesting!

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We easily found the camp area beyond the bridge – lots of rigs strung out in a row, beside the Gregory River, on the pebbly/sandy mix that would be the river bed in a flood.

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Some of the Gregory River camp area

Since there were about fifty rigs there before us, we did not have much choice of location. John chose a place, close to the original bridge – in full sun, for the solar panels. He backed the van in fairly close to the river. We had a pleasant outlook from the van’s back window, and from outside, of the stream and clumps of pandanus over the other side.

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Set up by the Gregory River

Later we realized that, if planning an extended stay, if arriving later in the day as we did, it would be best to park and stay hitched up, do a minimal set up, then suss out a good spot after the next morning’s departures.

We could soon see why it was such a popular place, as a free camp area. The river was superb – fairly shallow, and lovely to float around in during the heat of the day. The flow was strong enough to carry one a distance downstream. The water was clear, but greeny coloured. There were big paperbark trees and clumps of pandanus lining the river.

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Gregory River by our camp

There were two porta-loos, parked a little way from us – there to solve what would otherwise be a considerable problem, given the number of campers.

There was a new, high level bridge, a bit further downstream from the old low level ford/bridge we’d come across, built because of the new Century Zinc Mine, some 70kms to the west. There was the occasional burst of noise from heavy truck traffic across it, that we could hear.

It was a bit hard to get the van and Truck disconnected. The jockey wheel kept shifting in the rounded river stones we were parked on.

We set up, then sat and watched the creek and the plentiful bird life. Despite the number of other rigs, it was really very peaceful.

Then some yobs came and parked next to us – a weed spraying crew working on local properties. They threw rocks at any birds they saw. Horrible men. I went for a walk along the river side, rather than stay anywhere near them. After a swim and several beers each, they left.

Other campers pointed out a whistling kite’s nest in the top of a tall tree, nearby. It had a large “baby” in it. They had taken to calling him Baby Huey. Apparently he’d spent much of the afternoon standing on the edge of his nest, flapping his wings. They presumed he was getting ready to fly soon.

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Baby Huey getting ready to fly

There were numbers of Great Bowerbirds, crimson finches, honeyeaters – including the white gaped ones. A pair of these spent ages studying themselves in a nearby vehicle windscreen! There were purple crowned fairy wrens flitting about in the pandanus across the river. It was the first time we had seen these – wonderful.

Tea was soup from a packet, and corn cobs.

Went to bed really happy to be camped in such a great place.

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