This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2004 Travels July 12


By morning, the rain had lessened to showers only, but it had been heavy and steady through much of the night.

M had survived the night, quite cosily.

The campground was a real mess – all mud. All the other campers packed up and slipped and slid out. We thought about going, but really wanted to try to see the place. I had wanted to come here ever since we had to miss it on the ’93 trip.

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Tracks and slush made by departing campers

Then two Rangers arrived and told us they were closing the campground.

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Rangers closing the campground

It was on river silt, which was why it went to slop so quickly. We explained that we’d only just arrived yesterday, and looked sad, and they relented and let us stay, with conditions. We had to promise that we would not try to drive anywhere today. We were not to drive in and out more than once a day, after that, providing there was no more rain. More rain would mean no driving at all. Fair enough, we thought.

The Rangers indicated the weather was supposed to clear.

So now we had a campground all to ourselves!

We discovered a pit toilet closer than the one we’d used to date, that we’d been skiing up to!

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The rain stopped. The ground around our camp slowly dried.

We managed to play boules in the afternoon, after a fashion. Couldn’t play a normal game, because the boule just landed with a splat in the mud, and stayed put. But it filled in some time. The boules needed a very good wash, afterwards.

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Getting water to wash the boules

It seemed a really pretty area, from what we could see. It was on a great, deep, wide section of the Fortescue River. There were reed warblers in the reeds, white plumed honeyeaters about, and plenty of corellas. Watching their antics was very entertaining.

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Deep Reach – Fortescue River – by our camp

Deep Reach was one of the most sacred areas of the local indigines; their Warlu serpent lived in there.

Although it was still cloudy through the afternoon, there was no more rain. Looking promising! The solitude was worth the inconvenience of the mud.

Had to run the generator again for a while in the late afternoon, to charge up the batteries. At least, there were no neighbouring campers to be disturbed, although it ran really quietly.

Again, we huddled in the van for our meals. One of us had to sit on the bed – only room for two at the table. But it was comfortable enough. We talked for a little while, after tea, then had another early night.

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Millstream Chichester National Park – from CALM brochure


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2004 Travels July 11


We left Karratha about 9.30am. This first pack up with a third person and their gear required a little trial and error. Will be faster, next time.

Topped up with fuel on the way out. Still at $1.08 cpl. We put about 10 litres in each of the jerry cans on the back of the van, so our possible movements would not be too constrained by fuel availability.

Drove out to the highway, along it for a little way, then picked up the railway road on its other side. This road was maintained by the company, for access to its rail line, for repairs, checking and the like. Given that there is no direct route through to Tom Price, it was used by company staff going to the mine.

The drive along the Hamersley Iron Road was different. The road was pretty reasonable – unsealed of course. There was not much traffic.

We saw one of the huge, long ore trains and the driver blew the whistle at us. I supposed travellers provided him with some variety in the otherwise back and forth journeying.

One section through some hills was a bit steep and winding – there were no guard rails or the like!

There were rain showers for some of the time, and we could see nasty looking dark cloud, with rain falling, in the distance.

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On the railway road – threatening skies

Came to the place where two railways intersected. Ours ran from Tom Price to Dampier. The other from the mine at Robe River, to Cape Lambert, near Roeburn. That one went over the top of the one we were following on a flyover.

When the railway road intersected with the Roeburn Wittenoom road, we took the latter, which took us to a reasonable access road to Millstream National Park. This crossed the Fortescue River – dry at that point – on a long causeway, so we were then on its southern side.

At the entrance station to Crossing Pool, where I’d intended to camp, found it was now day use only, due to cyclone damage from “Monty” back in March.

So we continued on to the Deep Reach camp area. The track in there was very sloppy.

The camp area was fairly full, so there was not a great choice of sites in this fairly small area, but we found a good looking spot, backed up to the reeds and the Fortescue River, with a small patch of grass for M’s tent. The ground was fairly dry – it looked as if some campers had not long left. Maybe the approaching nasty looking weather had something to do with that?

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Millstream Deep Reach camp site

The clouds were definitely threatening and it began to rain, lightly, so we set up very quickly. Then it teemed down. There was soon very slippery and sloppy red mud all round us.

Going to the toilet – some distance away – became tricky, and messy – mud, water, the risk of slipping over, even with walk sticks.

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Change of mind!

We’d arrived about 1.30pm. Spent the afternoon and evening all huddled in the van, damp and cold. With this experience of touring, M might just decide to defer her retirement plans!

John had to go to Truck and break out the generator and get it going – for the very first time – because there was virtually no solar input. He remembered how to do it and it started first time. So, buying it was now justified!

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Generator first use

I wondered if the river would rise if the rain didn’t let up? That was not a comfortable thought!

Staying here cost the National Park camp fee – $5 each, per night.

An early night was in order. M paddled over to her little tent on its small island of grass.

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1998 Travels October 6


It was a slow pack up, with lots of fiddling about, not helped by us stopping to chat with some nearby campers who came from Dennington in Victoria.

We got away at 10am, which wasn’t too bad, apart from the fact we had a fair drive ahead.

Going up the range to Kuranda with the van was fine, and John was quite relaxed.

We travelled the Kennedy Highway, through Mareeba, Atherton, Ravenshoe and south, then the Gulf Development Road west to Mt Surprise.

The farming and grazing country of the Tablelands is so pretty, though what we travelled through today was not as spectacularly so as the south eastern parts we’d seen on our earlier day trip up here. The way was hillier than I’d expected, south of Atherton. There were some patches of rainforest still, but we moved more into the savanna woodland type of country as we went.

Crossed what seemed to be a mini range between Ravenshoe and Mount Garnet – the last of the Great Divide, I guess.

We lunched just out of Ravenshoe, at the Millstream Falls National Park. We took a short side track from the highway to reach the parking area. From here we walked down to the falls and along the Millstream Creek a little. There were plenty of birds along the way and, of course, we’d left the binoculars and bird books back in Truck. The track to the falls, which had some stairs too, was about 350 metres each way, which was enough in the heat. The Millstream Falls are supposed to be the widest single drop falls in Australia – but they did not seem particularly wide to us. Maybe when they are in full flood? Anyway, it was a very pleasant spot, and a pretty valley.

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Millstream Falls

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Cooling off in the Millstream Creek

As we continued on the main highway, noticed some side tracks going off towards the Millstream. If one was camped around there, they could be worth exploring.

We had planned to stop and look at the Innot Hot Springs, and maybe stay a night there, but they were shut.

By the early afternoon, the travel was rather hot and dry – we were well into the dry grass and woodland country now. The road was sealed, but often just a single width strip of bitumen, and John had to pull off onto the shoulder to let oncoming traffic past.

Passed through Mt Garnet township – small – but didn’t stop.

We took a drink break at the Forty Mile Scrub National Park – just in a gravelled pull-over section beside the road. Some remnant dry rainforest and semi evergreen vine thicket is preserved in this park. The latter is an ancient type of vegetation, similar to other ancient remanants in Asia and Africa. There was a short walk track we could take from the parking area, but it did not look all that attractive and we couldn’t be bothered. There is a pleasant, new-ish, picnic area there, with composting toilets, tables, seats and shelters. It could even be an overnight stop, for those so inclined, though it is right by the highway.

Just south of Forty Mile Scrub, turned off the highway, to the west. We intended to stay at Mt Surprise, rather than at Undara. I’d heard somewhere that the camp area at Undara was not very pleasant, being rough, dusty and overpriced. As we came into Mt Surprise township, saw an eye catching and different sign for a Bedrock Village Caravan Park, so turned right to go have a look.


A different sort of sign

It is a new park, only opened this year, developed by a young couple, Jo and Joe, who have two young children. Jo is originally from Bendigo. In the course of our finding out about the place, and deciding to check in, John did much talking with Jo about computer matters. She is interested to see what our scanner does. She is a part time admin assistant at the local school, which has eight students, from three families! As the nearest proper commercial centre is Atherton, there are some challenges involved in business activities out here.

The park is open and hot; there is not much shade yet, although lots of trees have been planted in strip beds that divide the sites. We booked in for a week, anyway, to use this as a base to explore the area. The park also has a very nice looking, new, inground pool. The amenities are in a pre-fab donga type building – adequate but not fancy.

We were charged $14 a night, with the seventh night free. Still under our budget.

Setting up camp was a hot exercise. I thought Cairns was hot, but there is a big increase in heat away from the coast!

The park will be lovely when the trees and shrubs have grown up. We really like the concept of one rig per pull through bay – saves a lot of backing issues, for starters!

There are hardly any other guests here. The tourist season is definitely over. Jo told us that tourist places further west, like in Karumba, would be mostly shut down now. We had begun to wonder about that, after seeing the Innot Hot Springs closed. Guess we may have to revise our plans.

We collected information about Undara and its tours from Joe, who used to be a Savanna Guide there.

Tea was the last of the corn soup, then fettucine with my best pasta sauce.

We sat outside at dusk, putting on insect deterrent because there were some mozzies – that surprised me! Looked at a superb sunset in the west and then a lovely moonrise in the east.

John found he can only get one TV channel – 10 – and that is not very good quality. Fine by me!

John got out the scanner and scanned the map of the Cape to use in a letter he is writing.

It was a hot evening, so we turned the air-con on for a while. However, the night cooled down enough for us to sleep comfortably.

It is wonderful to be away from urban Cairns and out in the bush again. It is so quiet.


Cairns to Mt Surprise, via the Atherton Tablelands